Probate is necessary to manage the affairs a decedent leaves behind with no valid will.
A life insurance policy payable to a specific beneficiary is not a probate asset, but a policy payable to the decedent’s estate is a probate asset.
Real estate titled in the sole name of the decedent is a probate asset, unless it is homesteaded. Property owned by spouses as tenants by the entirety is not a probate asset on the death of the first spouse, but goes automatically to the surviving spouse.
- Probate is a legal process provided for by Florida law that determines the value of a deceased person’s property and its distribution to heirs. Probate proceedings take place in the circuit court of the county where the deceased property owner lived or maintained his or her usual place of dwelling.
A will is writing, signed by the decedent and witnesses, meeting formal requirements declares how a person desires his/her property to be disposed of after death. A will usually designates a personal representative and names beneficiaries to receive probate assets. A will can also do other things, including establishing a trust and designating a trustee.It is canceled or altered by the individual at any time, and it has no purpose until the person’s death. A will’s terms cannot be changed by writing something in or crossing something out after the will is executed. In fact, writing on the will after its execution may invalidate part of the will or all of it.
Upon the death of a person, the custodian of the will must deposit the will with the Clerk, within 10 days after receiving information that the person is deceased. The custodian must supply the person’s date of death or the person’s Social Security number to the Clerk upon depositing the will.
Visit the Official Records Search page, accept the disclaimer and follow the script to search as desired.
When searching, it is helpful to enter just the last name and first initial and browse through the listing that displays. When you locate the desired row, click on the name in blue. Then click on the “view image” button in the middle of the screen. If prompted, answer yes to install the viewer, you may then be able to see a picture of the recorded document.
When there is no will, legally known as intestate, the court appoints a personal representative, known or unknown to you, to manage your estate. The cost of probating may be greater than if you had planned your estate with a will, and the administration of your estate may be subject to greater court supervision.
Small Estates is also known as Disposition of Personal Property without Administration. These cases are filed when formal administration is not necessary and no real property is involved. Visit the Forms Library to download the form. You may also mail a request for forms and instructions, along with a self-addressed stamp envelope to the Probate Department. Visit the Contact Us page for information. If requested, the clerk may also assist you with filing a small estate.
The decedent must have been a resident of Lee County at the time of death. The assets of the decedent must be $6,000 or less. Other restrictions may be applicable depending on the circumstances. If the assets are more than $6,000, you cannot proceed with a Small Estates action, and it is suggested that you consult with an attorney on how to proceed. Assets cannot exceed funeral bill.
At the time of filing a small estates action, you must mail in or take a certified copy of the death certificate, a copy of the funeral bill paid in full, a copy of any documentation of the decedent's assets, and the applicable filing fees. Assets are only released to the party who paid the final funeral bill.
Visit the Fee Schedule for a complete list of our fees.