Every probate case is different, as you might imagine, according to a number of varying circumstances. Letters of administration are legal documents that grant a personal representative the right to help settle an estate that goes through probate court. According to the probate process in Florida, an estate must have a personal representative who acts on behalf of the estate. Getting letters of administration in Florida involves a process whereby the legal documents are issued to a person who has applied to be the personal representative by a probate judge. Letters of administration can only be issued by a judge in the county where the individual died or owned property. It is all part of a formal administration process to get estate matters resolved.
HIRING A FLORIDA PROBATE ATTORNEY
Several steps need to be completed before an estate can be settled and finalized. Getting letters of administration in Florida is at the beginning of that process. A personal representative has certain duties and powers to act as part of the formal administration of the estate. However, before obtaining the letters of administration, a few things need to be taken care of first. These include:
- Hire a probate attorney. The personal representative (PR) has to be represented by a Florida probate attorney. The only exceptions to this are if the PR is the only person having an interest in the estate or the PR is a licensed attorney in Florida.
- Ensure no harm comes to any of the assets. If there is an immediate concern about any damage or destruction to the property involved in the estate, before the letters granting administration to the PR is completed, a curator should be appointed to keep the assets safe. Oftentimes, a friend or family member will automatically do this, but if not available, a curator should be appointed.
- Documentation. Right away, the person asking to be granted the letters of administration should make an inventory list of the estate’s assets. This should include how each is titled, the value, and their whereabouts. Of course, if a Last Will and Testament has been drawn up, that is the first thing to consider and may avoid a good many other scenarios.
BEFORE LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION BECOME OFFICIAL
How long does it take to get a letter of administration in Florida? Typically, from three to six weeks. Once the above-listed steps have been followed, it’s time to make a petition to the court, which the probate attorney will do. The petition will seek to accept the validity of the will if there is one, and then give the personal representative the right and power to act as executor of the estate.
The person to become the personal representative must file proof of the decedent’s (owner of the estate who has passed) death. Formal administration requires that this proof must be filed within three months of the time when any creditors were officially notified through the use of a general circulation publication.
The person to become the personal representative must also submit a sworn and notarized statement attesting to this fact. A designated resident agent must be named who will receive notices on behalf of the personal representative. Sometimes a bond will be required by the PR as well, as a precaution to try to eliminate any expenses if any mistakes are accidentally made. The bond requirement may be waived, depending on the circumstances.
Notice to the decedent’s surviving spouse or any other potential beneficiaries must be served to notify them that the personal representative is seeking that legal authority over the estate.
Upon completion of these steps, the probate attorney will present a draft order and unsigned letters of administration for the probate judge’s review. If the judge finds everything acceptable, he/she will sign the letters of administration, making it official.
How long does it take for an entire estate to pass through probate, resulting in a settled case? To complete the Florida probate process, depending on the variables in each individual case, it can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months, or longer. The more complexity that surrounds the matters of the estate, the longer it can take. To discuss the process further, speak to a probate attorney at Elder Law, P.A. today.