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Why is probate administration important?

Virtually everyone has heard about and fretted over the word "probate." Probate, the court supervised gathering and distribution of a deceased person's assets, has gotten a bad reputation in Florida and in other states because of the administrative hoops loved ones must jump through. While there are certainly formal requirements, the process of probate administration can help heirs manage assets in a more efficient manner.

Probate is necessary in order to transfer ownership of the decedent's assets to the beneficiaries. In most cases, a valid will on its own does not transfer ownership of probate assets to heirs. Probate is especially helpful if a decedent has no will, as it passes ownership of assets to rightful heirs under state law.

Any asset owned by the decedent in his or her own name, or owned collectively with another but without an automatic transfer designation, is a probate asset. For instance, a bank account or investment account which is held in the individual's name only is a probate asset that must be accounted for and distributed in probate proceedings. If the account contained a payable on death provision and named a beneficiary, however, the funds would automatically transfer without the need for probate.

When loved ones pass away, they may leave behind unresolved financial matters, such as debt. Probate administration affirms that creditors are paid. For more complex issues, such as tax consequences, a disputed will or administering provisions of a trust, Floridians have access to attorneys that can assess their personal situation. No matter the scenario, a local Lee estate lawyer may be able to help families ease their way through the seemingly daunting probate process.

Source: The Florida Bar, "Probate in Florida Pamphlet," accessed on Aug. 5, 2014

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