Probate is the judicial process by which property of a decedent is retitled to the decedent’s beneficiaries or heirs. A formal probate administration often involves the admission of a will to probate or recognition that the decedent died intestate (without a Last Will and Testament), appointment of a personal representative, notification of beneficiaries or heirs, notification and payment to creditors of the decedent, payment of taxes (income and estate), and distribution of assets to beneficiaries or heirs.

Florida law provides for summary administration of certain estates depending on the value and nature of the decedent’s assets and the terms of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament.

Trust Administration
The process of managing and transferring assets held in a trust. There are several types of trusts. A common type is the “revocable living trust” which is often established by the Settlor (trust creator or Grantor) to transfer assets to beneficiaries upon the Settlor’s death without the need for probate.

Other benefits of trusts can be asset protection, long term property management, reduce or avoid taxes, maintain financial privacy and to specify the control of trust assets in the event of the incapacity of the Settlor.

Guardianship is the judicial process of appointing a legal guardian to exercise authority to care for the person and property of another individual, usually called the ward.

There are several types of guardianship in Florida including, but not limited to: voluntary, involuntary, minor, and veterans.  In an involuntary guardianship, a person must first be adjudicated incapacitated by a judge then a guardian is appointed by the court to oversee the ward’s affairs. A plenary guardian of the person and property will be granted broad authority to control the ward’s assets, medical care, residence, social interactions as well as many other aspects of the ward’s life. This type of guardianship is often associated with an elderly person that suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.

Guardianships are also commonly necessary for parents to control assets belonging to minor children, such as inheritances or proceeds from a lawsuit.

Estate planning is the process of contemplating and providing for care of an individual’s property and person over their lifetime and death.

Estate planning usually involves counseling and drafting documents relating to Last Wills and Testaments, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Health Care Surrogates (also known as Medical Powers of Attorney, Designations of Pre-Need Guardians), property ownership (tenancy by the entirety, joint tenant with right of survivorship and tenancy in common) and Powers of Appointment.