Very frequently, I get phone calls, to the effect of my mother or father died, my husband or wife died, they left a house, a bank account, do I need a probate?
The answer is, it’s going to depend. It is going to depend on what they left, and how they set up their ownership.
Very generally, when someone dies in Florida and leaves property, and it can be real estate, a bank account, or anything else worth money, you have to look at each piece of property and figure out whether you need a probate on that piece of property. If none of the property needs to be probated, then no, you don’t need to bring a probate.
First, where the person was married, very frequently, the surviving spouse will be listed a co-owner on all of the property; the house, the bank accounts, the car or truck. If they are listed as a co-owner and the type of co-ownership is “tenants by the entirety” or “joint tenancy” or “joint owner with right of survivorship” then you won’t have to bring a probate on those assets. In many, if not most cases I see, this is what happens when one of a married couple dies. Also, in some cases the deceased person named another person, who they were not married to, as joint owner of some things; in that case there is no probate needed on those assets.
Second, a lot of times the deceased person will have named one or more beneficiaries on a bank account, retirement account, life insurance or other financial instrument. So long as the beneficiary survived the other person, all the beneficiary should have to do is take the death certificate to the bank, the broker, or the agent and the company should pay the money over to the beneficiary.
Normally, probate will only be needed if there is property that doesn’t fall into one of these two categories. There are some exceptions, such as where there may be a lawsuit that needs to be brought, such as a wrongful death suit. If you have a loved one who has died in Florida, you should contact a probate attorney and have them review the documents. It would help if you first contacted whatever banks or financial institutions you know of and provide a copy of the death certificate to bank; the bank may be able to tell you that there was a beneficiary designation on the account and that probate is needed. If you set an appointment with a lawyer, be sure to bring at least any deeds and vehicle titles or registrations, and mobile home title certificates to the appointment.
If you have questions regarding whether you need a Probate in The Villages, Florida or Lake County, Sumter County or Marion County, Florida, please contact my office in Summerfield Florida.