A living will is technically referred to as an advance medical directive. This document is used to express, while you are able, your choices regarding future medical care. This document typically focuses on end-of-life care decisions, but it can be used for more specific choices such as a decision to go for blood transfusions. Florida can vary in their length, complexity, instructions, and format. What is important is not the length of the will or even whether it was signed in. What is important is the clarity with which the will expressed the desire of the Testator (person to whom the will belongs).
When a loved one passes away, his or her estate often goes through a court-managed process called probate or estate administration where the assets of the deceased are managed and distributed. If your loved one owned his or her assets through a properly drafted and funded Living Trust, it is likely that no court-managed administration is necessary, though the successor trustee needs to administer the distribution of the deceased. The length of time needed to complete probate of an estate depends on the size and complexity of the estate as well as the rules and schedule of the local probate court.
Every probate estate is unique, but most involve the following steps:
- Filing of a petition with the proper probate court
- Notice to heirs under the will or to statutory heirs (if no will exists)
- Petition to appoint Executor (in the case of a will) or Administrator for the estate
- Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by Executor/Administrator
- Payment of estate debt to rightful creditors
- Sale of estate assets
- Payment of estate taxes, if applicable
- Final distribution of assets to heirs