General Administration of an Estate
If it is determined that a probate estate must be opened, a lawyer
must be hired. The first step in the administration process is to
inventory the assets or affairs of the deceased. The probate process
begins with the preparation and filing of a petition to open a probate
estate and to request that Letters of Administration be issued.
First, the court must agree that the person filing for administration,
pursuant to the Will or pursuant to statute without a Will, is the proper
party and has elected a proper Personal Representative. (In some states
this person is called the executor.) The probate court judge generally
approves whomever the initial document appoints as the Personal
Representative. Along with approving the Personal Representative to handle
the affairs of the estate, the judge also issues Letters of Administration.
These letters empower the Personal Representative to handle the affairs of
the estate. Copies of these Letters of Administration will be sent to
anyone who has custody of assets that belonged to the deceased but will
now belong to the estate. Anyone holding such property will be required
to immediately transfer the property to the care and custody of the
After the Personal Representative has identified, located, and
transferred the assets to his or her control, the settling of the estate
can occur. The Personal Representative is required to search out and
determine all debts and claims against the estate. Just because a person
dies does not mean his debts die with him.
Once the appropriate claims have been identified and paid, the Personal
Representative will then determine what taxes, if any, are due.
In most cases, the date of death does not exactly coincide with the
tax year. Therefore, anyone dying during a tax year will still be
responsible for taxes on income earned during the year of death.
Sometimes, two income tax returns need to be filed. If a person dies before
filing his taxes on April 15, the taxes for the previous year and the
taxes for the year of death will need to be paid.
If an estate exceeds $1.500,000, inheritance taxes will need to be paid
in addition to income taxes. Following the settlement of all claims and
the payment of all debts, expenses and taxes, the Personal Representative
will then divide the assets and distribute them according to the terms of
the Will. If there was no Will, the Personal Representative will
distribute the assets in accordance with Florida Statutes governing
intestate estates (without a Will).