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If a person dies with a Last Will and Testament, the deceased is said to as have died testate.  If there is no Last Will and Testament at the time of death, the deceased is referred to as having died intestate.  If the deceased died intestate, Florida Statutes provides for the distribution of assets.

If the deceased died testate, the Last Will and Testament will be deposited with the Clerk of Courts.  A death certificate will be obtained from the Department of Vital Statistics or other available official source, and recorded with the Clerk of Courts.  A petition is then filed with the court to open the probate proceedings.  A personal representative for the estate is appointed.  If the is no contest as to the validity of the Will, all legal notices are published and creditors of the deceased are notified.  Petitions for exemptions from creditors, such as to the homestead of the decedent, are then filed with the court.  Creditors’ claims are paid as well as expenses relating to the probate proceedings.  An accounting is prepared as to the estate’s assets and distribution of same is completed.  Once all beneficiaries confirm the estate’s administration is completed, the personal representative of the estate is relieved and the estate is then closed.

Most people do not want to spend any time thinking about what will happen when they die or if they become incapacitated, and unable to make their own decisions, either due to medical issues, accidents or old age.  Probate law addresses not only Last Wills and Testaments, but also Living Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Health Care Advance Directives.  These last items are basic documents used in case you become incapacitated and unable to communicate your decisions as to your own healthcare.  If something were to happen to you, and your wishes are not set in paper as to what types of treatments you do or do not want to receive, and you have not appointed someone you trust to oversee your care, you may be left to the care of your doctors, family members who are not close to you and do not know your true wishes, or even a judge.  Florida has had some high profile cases involving exactly this type of situation.

Having a Last Will and Testament, a Living Will, a Health Care Advance Directive or any other such documentation, should not be considered a morbid or depressing thought.  It is an act of love and shows you care for your own wellbeing and that of your family.  Contact attorney Marjorie Brunelli and she will assist you with the preparation of all the required documentation.