For a variety of reasons people ask if they can do probate on their own. Usually it’s to save a few bucks. In Florida, summary probate can be done without the help of a probate attorney. Some counties have just about every form you’d need. That doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea.
For the most part the pleadings can be straight forward in a summary probate administration. However, the web of notices that must be given to people to make sure the final order protects all the beneficiaries from creditors is key. Some people need a notice to creditors, some people need formal notice, and some people need a notice of administration.
Each one of these serves a particular rule or statutory requirement. Failure to get the right notice to the right person can mean a beneficiary is liable for unpaid debts if assets were distributed to them without the correct notices being served.
In Summary Probate proceedings formal notice is the most commonly required notice. If you don’t properly draft and include all necessary documents with formal notice, the court will send you what’s called an Order Checklist. This will tell you what the court wants, and will generally cause everything to grind to a halt until the court is satisfied. Also, in Pinellas, you have to file a written response to that Order Checklist (this is hidden in the judicial preferences on the judge’s contact page).
To complete the probate process in Florida in an efficient manner, you need to know what notice is required, how that notice must be served, and what must be included with that notice. Even once the final order is issued, you may still need to publish notice.
In some cases a notice to creditors isn’t used in summary probate administration. Part of the reason is that the notice isn’t appropriate until after the summary order has been entered. Summary estates are usually limited, and the cost of going after assets that were already distributed is usually offset by the uncertainty of recovery. However, if you publish a notice to creditors in compliance with the statute, you can reduce the window of opportunity creditors have to file claims in an estate that’s already been distributed.
Under Florida Statutes 735.2063, if you publish a notice to creditors, anyone who had a claim but you may not have known about has to present that claim within 90 days. Otherwise, they may have up to 2 years to bring a claim against any beneficiary to which probate assets were distributed! That’s a long time to wonder if a creditor will pop up!
We can handle your summary probate needs. We know who needs to be served, when, and how. We can also make sure the clock runs out on creditors who sleep on their rights so the beneficiaries won’t be surprised years down the road. Call us today for a free consultation about probate in Florida and one of our probate attorneys will be glad to speak with you.
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