What Steps Should You Take After a Loved One Dies in Florida?

What Steps Should You Take After a Loved One Dies in Florida

Losing a loved one is painful, no matter where you live. But if a family member or friend passes away in Florida, you must take specific steps to settle legal and financial issues by state laws.

Navigating probate, the court-supervised process for administering a deceased person’s estate, comes with many procedures and deadlines unique to Florida. This guide covers vital tasks and considerations when handling a death in the Sunshine State.

Step 1: Notify Immediate Family and Arrange Care for Dependents

After your loved one dies, contact immediate family and close friends to share the news and begin providing mutual support. If the deceased cared for any minors, elderly parents, or pets needing assistance, arrange temporary care with trusted family/friends to ease immediate concerns. Add dependent care while grieving poses extra challenges. Accept help from those offering condolences.

Step 2: Collect Documents and Identify Key Contacts

Before meeting with legal and financial professionals, collect essential documents like IDs, financial statements, insurance policies, estate plans, the will, etc. Also, please list key contacts like the deceased’s attorney, tax preparer, doctors, or any specialized professionals serving them. Proper documentation helps immensely in solving problems later.

Step 3: Notify the Deceased’s Employers and Insurance Providers

Contact the deceased’s employer to claim benefits owed to surviving dependents and discuss any pending pay. Also, call health insurers, life insurers, auto insurers, and others providing the deceased policies to report their passing (preventing identity theft) and submit claims to access proceeds.

Step 4: Choose a Funeral Home and Submit Obituaries

Select funeral home services per the deceased’s wishes and religious beliefs. Compare prices among facilities for standard accommodations like cremation, burial plots, memorials, transport/preparation of remains, etc. Obituaries in local media publications announce service details for mourners paying respects.

Step 5: Apply for Any Death Benefits from Government or Private Sources

Explore potential death benefits available to surviving spouses and dependents. Federal Social Security provides a one-time $255 death benefit and monthly income for surviving spouses/children once approved. Submit private life insurance, pension, or other policies the deceased holds promptly. Retain professional help if needed when filing more complex claims.

Step 6: Open a Separate Estate Account

As executor, open a distinct estate account to accept income and make any payments owed by the deceased’s estate. Keeping estate finances separate from personal beneficiary matters simplifies legal accounting and protects inheritance assets earmarked for eligible heirs only.

Step 7: Inventory Assets, Pay Debts, and Settle Liabilities

Work with estate attorneys and financial professionals to carefully inventory assets, pay any outstanding debts based on priority rules, cancel automatic billing, and settle liabilities owed by the estate. Understanding Florida’s right of survivorship and probate laws ensures assets transfer properly to beneficiaries without unnecessary court processes.

Step 8: Notify Credit Bureaus of the Death

Contact Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian to report the death, preventing identity theft concerns. Please provide copies of the death certificate and your ID with any request to add death notices across your loved one’s credit reports and effectively freeze their information.

Step 9: Petition Probate Court within Required Timeframes

Florida probate law requires estates valued over $75,000 to enter court-supervised probate administration, usually within two months after death. 

This formal process: 

  • verifies the will’s validity
  • appoints an approved personal representative (executor)
  • catalogs assets
  • settles legitimate debts
  • files tax returns to close estate tax liability
  • authorizes distribution of inheritance gifts outlined in the will/estate once completed

Understand strict Florida probate time limitations.

Step 10: Notify Financial Institutions and Transfer Assets

Inform any banks, brokerages, or businesses holding investment accounts, insurance policies, or financial assets of the deceased to update records. Follow individual procedures for closing accounts, submitting claim forms, or re-titling certain assets under the estate’s ownership for continued administration. Eventually, inheritances will be transferred to heirs as probate concludes.

Step 11: Transfer Ownership of Property and Vehicles

For any Florida real estate, timeshares, or vehicles left to heirs, complete proper forms and contact appropriate state offices to transfer these titles from the deceased’s ownership either into the estate’s possession if further administration is required or directly to the beneficiary’s name, depending on final probate disposition.

Step 12: File Terminal Income Tax Returns for the Deceased

As an estate administrator, you must file a final personal income tax return (Form 1040) for the deceased, covering January 1 to the date of death in the year they passed. Any estate income beyond that date is filed under a separate tax return (Form 1041). State/federal taxes owed are still due from the deceased’s final 1040 return assets.

Step 13: Distribute Remaining Assets to Heirs

Only once satisfying the Florida probate court of properly resolving debts, taxes, etc., can you finally distribute inheritance assets like real estate, investments, insurance proceeds, vehicles, and any tangible personal property to heirs according to terms in the will or other estate plan. Obtain signed receipts from all beneficiaries for records.

Losing family while handling unfamiliar estate settlement procedures in Florida proves daunting. Seek assistance from attorneys well-versed in state probate law nuances whenever possible while remembering self-care during the grieving process.

The experienced estate planning and probate lawyers at Vollrath Law can walk you through the following steps so that you can focus on your family. Call their office in Oviedo, FL, or visit their website at https://www.vollrath-law.com/ for more information.

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