When someone dies in Florida, here are some first steps to take for legal matters:
1. Find Original Will. Find the original, signed last will and testament, then give it to your lawyer. The Florida Probate Code requires that it be filed with the Court within 10 days after learning of the death.
2. Secure Home. The deceased person’s home should be locked and secured by the person named in the will as personal representative. That person should verify that there is a current homeowner’s insurance policy. No mail should be discarded. In fact, nothing in the house should be taken or discarded because the court has not yet decided who is entitled to it.
3. Secure Vehicles. The decedent’s motor vehicles should be parked and locked. Florida law holds the probate estate liable for any accidents that occur with the vehicle so vehicles should not be driven by anyone. The person named as personal representative in the will should verify that there is a current automobile insurance policy on each vehicle.
4. Engage a Probate Lawyer. The person named in the will as personal representative (PR) should engage a Florida probate attorney as soon as possible. In Florida, the attorney works for the PR and not for the estate or its beneficiaries or creditors. Therefore, it is wise for each beneficiary and each creditor of a deceased Florida resident to engage a Floridaprobate lawyer too.
5. Petition for Appointment as Personal Representative. Generally, the person named as personal representative in the last will and testament has no power to act until a court order is entered appointing the personal representative. The lawyer will prepare the petition and other documents needed by the Pinellas County probate court before an order can be entered.
These are just some of the first steps that should be taken when someone dies.