St. Petersburg, Florida Probate Attorneys

You’ve heard the expression, “You can’t take it with you.” But you may not have spent much time thinking about what that means: that somebody has to deal with what’s left behind when someone dies. The process of doing that is called estate administration, or probate.

When the only person who has the legal right to money or property dies, the job of the probate court is to transfer the legal right to those assets to someone else. If the person who died (the decedent) had a will or estate plan, the assets get transferred to the people or organizations designated to receive them. If the decedent died without an estate plan (intestate), the assets will go to the nearest relatives, as defined in Florida law. But either way, the process is not automatic.

The probate court oversees the legal process of transferring property rights from the decedent to heirs or beneficiaries. The process is managed by the personal representative of the estate, who may be an executor named in a will, or someone appointed by the court if there was no will.

The Florida Probate Process and the Personal Representative’s Duties

You might be reading this page because someone close to you has died and you expect to have to act as the personal representative of their estate. If you have never been involved in administering an estate, you probably have a lot of questions about the probate process, and what your duties will be.

In Florida, personal representatives of almost all probate estates are required to have an attorney’s help in administering the estate. Because the attorney’s services are considered a benefit to the estate, reasonable attorney fees are paid out of estate funds, not the personal representative’s pocket.

An experienced probate attorney can help you with your duties as a personal representative, which include:

  • Opening the probate estate in the county where the decedent lived (If the decedent did not live in Florida, probate takes place in the county where they owned real property.);
  • Obtaining a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) for the estate;
  • Notifying heirs and creditors of the probate case;
  • Identifying, gathering, securing and inventorying any estate property;
  • Managing assets of the estate during probate;
  • Preparing and filing any required documents with the probate court, including inventories and accountings;
  • Paying any legitimate debts of the estate;
  • Preparing, filing and paying the final income tax return of the deceased;
  • Preparing, filing, and paying federal estate and income tax returns for the estate;
  • Distributing assets according to the will and/or Florida law;
  • Closing the estate.

As the personal representative of the estate, you are a fiduciary. That means you are in a position of trust, and obligated to act in the best interests of the creditors and beneficiaries of the estate. Failing to fulfill your duties could not only cause delay and unnecessary expense, it could result in personal liability for you. An experienced Florida probate attorney can help you make sure you are meeting all of your obligations, in a complete and timely fashion.

Help for Personal Representatives Outside Florida

Florida does not require people to be a resident of the state in order to serve as a personal representative. Our office routinely works with family members outside the state to administer their loved one’s estate in Florida. In most cases, we can handle all court appearances on your behalf and you will not even need to appear in court in Florida.

In some cases, a decedent lived outside Florida, but owned property in the state, such as a winter home, vacation cottage, or timeshare. If a decedent owned real property in Florida, there must be a secondary probate proceeding in Florida to deal with that property. John Fitzgerald Correa, PLLC frequently helps families with these proceedings, called ancillary probate or foreign probate.

We take pride in keeping open lines of communication with all our probate clients. Our clients outside the state especially appreciate knowing that we will keep them informed, and that they can call us at any time for guidance or an update on the status of their probate matter.

Work With an Experienced Probate and Tax Attorney

For many people, the most intimidating part of a probate case is the tax filings. As a personal representative, you will probably have to file a final income tax return for the decedent, and may have to file an income tax return or estate tax return for the estate as well. Some probate attorneys do not handle preparation of tax returns. At John Fitzgerald Correa, PLLC, we help you with every aspect of your duties as personal representative, including preparing, filing, and paying taxes.

Attorney John Correa has an LLM (Master of Laws) in Tax and is deeply familiar with the tax issues that can arise with a Florida estate. Our office is prepared to take the worry out of administering your loved one’s estate, helping you resolve your probate matter as efficiently and compassionately as possible.

If you have questions about Florida probate, or need help with a Florida probate matter, we invite you to contact John Fitzgerald Correa, PLLC to schedule a consultation.