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Personal Representative’s Duties and Determining Ownership of Assets in a Florida Probate


One of the duties a Personal Representative has in probate is to compile an inventory of the Decedent’s assets. They have to determine the asset’s correct ownership to know whether or not it needs to be included in the probate inventory. Depending on how an asset is titled, it may not need to go through probate at all. However, that doesn’t mean it will keep disputes from arising. Some beneficiaries may allege undue influence, fraud, coercion, etc. If a conflict erupts during probate, it’s imperative you contact an experienced Pompano Beach estate & trust litigation attorney.

Disputes in probate can wind up being very costly, both financially and emotionally. Fighting over assets can tear a family apart, and the estate can be financially wiped out as probate drags on with no resolution in sight.

Property Held in Joint Tenancy or Joint Title with Right of Survivorship

If the asset has some reference to joint tenancy or joint tenancy with right of survivorship, ownership belongs to two or more people. Common assets with joint title include real estate and bank accounts. When one asset owner passes away, the property in question directly passes to the other. Joint assets with the right of survivorship are not normally probate assets.

Pay on Death or Transfer on Death

Assets that have a pay on death or transfer on death designation would pass directly to the named beneficiary. You may see this death designation in bank accounts or with brokerage firms.

Assets with Beneficiary Designation

Some assets may have a named beneficiary, like a life insurance policy, a retirement account, or IRA. In most cases, the owner can name the beneficiary they wish the asset to transfer to upon their death. It’s crucial people remember to look at their beneficiary designations from time to time and make sure they reflect their current wishes. It’s not uncommon for a dispute to arise upon someone’s death when family members find out the Decedent had never updated his designations. Marriage, divorce, and a child’s birth are all events that should trigger someone to check their beneficiary designations.

Tenants in Common

Property that is titled with tenants in common likely will need to pass through probate. This is distinctly different than a property that is titled joint tenants with the right of survivorship. There may be an exception for probate with an asset titled as tenants in common. This is if it’s homestead property. Florida homestead has its own complex rules that will apply if the Decedent has a surviving spouse and/or surviving children under the age of 18.

Property Held in a Trust

Some people plan in an attempt to avoid probate as much as possible. However, funding a trust requires an estate planning attorney who can make sure the trust is properly funded. Failure to properly fund the trust means the assets could wind up going through probate.

Contact a Florida Estate Litigation Attorney

If you have a vested interest in a Florida probate or you are the Personal Representative of an Estate in probate, arguments may arise on various aspects of the process. Don’t let a dispute derail the entire probate process, let a skilled Pompano Beach estate and trust litigation attorney help. Contact Mark R. Manceri, P.A. today to schedule an initial consultation.


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