Probate is the process of settling estates under the supervision of the court. When a person dies (the decedent) leaving behind an estate, the court supervises the administration of the estate to ensure that all assets are gathered, creditors are paid, taxes are paid, and the remaining property is distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries. The purpose of probate is to safeguard the decedent’s estate and prevent fraud.
Probate administration in Florida applies only to probate assets, or assets that form part of the decedent’s estate and were registered in the decedent’s own name. Probate assets include bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and real estate.
Assets that cannot be probate assets include real estate owned under joint tenancy (ownership passes automatically to the surviving co-owner) and beneficiary designations such as retirement accounts with named beneficiaries.