A probate administration will be opened if a person dies either having a Will or without having a Will but has assets titled in his or her name only, without a designated beneficiary. Contrary to the common belief that a Will avoids probate, the opposite is actually the truth. If you have nothing but a Will and there is an asset titled in your name upon your death, then there must be a probate. In instances where no valid Will exists then intestacy laws which indicate what assets each family member is to receive go into effect. Typically, inheritance is granted to family members according to a specific order. The probate process is initiated in order to change the title of an asset owned by a deceased person.
A Trust administration will proceed upon the death of a single Trustor or upon the death of the surviving joint Trustor. The Trust assets must be settled or disposed of according to the provisions of the Trust instrument. The successor or backup Trustee will review the Trust document and determine how the creator(s) of the Trust wanted his or her assets to be distributed. Upon the death of the Trustor(s), the disposition of assets is now carved in stone and cannot be changed -- it is irrevocable. This is just like a Will; once a person is dead the Will cannot be changed.
The administration of a probate estate and a Trust estate are similar. In both cases, the assets must be identified. The debts and creditors must be paid, including the IRS. The heirs must be notified and the remaining assets should be divided and distributed according to the terms of the document (Will or Trust). The major difference is that with probate, the attorney and probate court system control the process. With a Trust, the Successor Trustee controls the process pursuant to Florida Statutes. With a Successor Trustee, a Trust estate is routinely settled quicker and with less expense than if involving the probate court system.
Below is more information on the two types of administration: