Do you have questions about navigating the probate process in Florida? Probate can be complicated and time-consuming, leaving you unsure where to begin or what steps to take for a successful resolution. When you’re grieving the loss of a loved one and serving as their personal representative, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed by what can be a grueling process.
How long does the probate process take in Florida?
It’s an excellent question that requires a detailed answer because understanding the process in Florida helps you and your family settle your affairs as seamlessly as possible. At Denise Jomarron Legal Group in Miami, FL, we have over 13 years of experience helping grieving families by assisting them with transferring assets and guiding them through the probate process. Contact us at (305) 402-4494 to schedule a complimentary 20-minute strategy session.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal court process of transferring a deceased person’s assets over to their chosen beneficiaries named in their Last Will and Testament, if they had one, or transferring the assets to their heirs at law. The process also involves informing creditors of the estate whereby they have the ability to file a claim in the estate to get paid from estate assets.
What Is A Personal Representative?
In Florida, a personal representative is a person legally in charge of estate matters. According to state law, any mentally and physically capable adult named in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament who meets the state’s requirements can be designated as the personal representative. However, the law forbids convicted felons from serving in this capacity.
Suppose the deceased person did not specify a personal representative in their Last Will and Testament or died intestate (without a Last Will and Testament). In that case, a majority of the estate’s beneficiaries choose the representative, which the probate court must approve.
Can out-of-state residents serve as personal representatives? People outside Florida can usually serve as personal representatives if related to the decedent. Examples include children, siblings, nephews or nieces, and relatives.
Overview of the Probate Process in Florida
Florida’s probate process ensures the fulfillment of an individual’s wishes after they pass. After their passing, the assigned personal representative will oversee the management and distribution of their assets and debts through the assistance of their probate attorney. In scenarios with large sums of owed debts, the representative may need to sell portions of the individual’s assets to pay off creditors before dividing the estate among beneficiaries.
Basic probate steps include:
- Identifying probate assets: When someone dies, a determination needs to made as to which assets may be subject to probate. These are assets, with no named beneficiaries, which belonged to the deceased person alone, such as their car, home, jewelry, and bank accounts. Non-probate assets, on the other hand, include jointly owned property, trust assets, and accounts like IRAs with named beneficiaries. Navigating probate can be intimidating, but a probate lawyer can guide you. They will help you prepare or gather the necessary documentation, including the Last Will and Testament, death certificate, paid funeral bill, and account statements, so you can focus on grieving and moving forward.
- Filing through the probate court: The personal representative initiates the estate administration through the help of their probate attorney by filing a petition with the probate court in the deceased’s county of residence, notifying all the legal heirs and beneficiaries about the estate opening. The court grants the petition and issues Letters of Administration designating the decedent’s personal representative upon approval, permitting the representative to access the assets and fulfill the necessary estate administration tasks, such as opening a bank account in the estate’s name.
- Notifying creditors: Per Florida probate law, the personal representative must inform the decedent’s creditors about the open estate. This process involves contacting the creditors directly and publishing Notice to Creditors in a local newspaper for two consecutive weeks. This process ensures that everyone to whom the decedent owed money knows the situation. The law allows creditors up to three months from the date of notification to file claims against the estate. The creditors who are personally served with Notice to Creditors have thirty days to file a claim in the estate.
- Gathering assets: Determining the complete net worth of the decedent’s estate is essential before beginning probate. The estate’s diverse assets include real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, valuable property, and any assets that can be counted. The personal representative’s attorney submits the inventory to the probate court.
- Paying taxes and creditor claims: As the personal representative of an estate, it falls on you to settle any valid debts using available funds in the estate account. However, you have the right to contest any claims deemed invalid so long as dealt with in the proper manner set forth under Florida law. Remember that timing is critical; the court could strike any claims filed after the expiration of the 90 day creditor’s period.
- Filing and paying estate taxes: Most estates do not exceed the federal tax threshold, and those above must file an estate tax return. Additionally, the personal representative must complete and pay the deceased individual’s personal tax returns for the year. As an authoritative reminder, fulfilling such legal requirements fortifies one’s estate concerns.
- Distributing assets: After completing all necessary steps, the property should be distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries as outlined in their Last Will and Testament, if they had one, or through Florida law. For assets not liquid or not bequeathed explicitly in the Will, such as a home, they may sometimes be sold during the probate process, and the proceeds distributed through court order.
- Defending any disputes: When a loved one passes, disputes over the contents of their Last Will and Testament can be a difficult and emotional challenge for family and friends. However, having a personal representative to help navigate the probate process in Florida can ease some of this burden. This individual is responsible for defending the Will against any challenges or disputes arising during probate. While this may seem overwhelming, the personal representative has a legal obligation to act in the decedent’s best interest and wishes. By working closely with an experienced Florida probate attorney and providing documentation to support the Will’s validity, the personal representative can ensure their loved one’s final wishes are honored. Compassionate and knowledgeable representation can ease the probate process during a difficult time.
- Closing the estate: Upon completion of the distribution of estate assets, the personal representative shall file discharge pleadings with the probate court to discharge them from their duties and bring closure to the estate.
Florida has three types of probate: summary administration, formal administration, and ancillary administration. Summary administration occurs when the estate’s total non-exempt assets value is under $75,000, allowing you to skip many of the above steps, though this scenario is uncommon. The more common scenario is formal administration for estates valued over $75,000, which requires many of the abovementioned complex steps.
An ancillary administration probate case occurs when a deceased individual owned property in Florida but was a permanent resident in another state, requiring their representative to complete formal administration in their home state or country plus ancillary administration in a Florida probate court.
Timelines for the Probate Process in Florida
Now that you understand how probate works, let’s circle back to the initial question: How long does the probate process take in Florida? The estimated probate timelines for each type are as follows:
- Summary administration: Summary administration involves the lowest level of complexity and may generally be handled between one to four months.
- Formal administration: Formal administration involves numerous complex steps that can generally take between four to twelve months, sometimes even longer to complete.
- Ancillary administration: Ancillary administration in Florida can generally take between four to twelve months to complete, sometimes longer, though this is separate from the other formal administration processes occurring in another state.
Factors Affecting the Duration of the Probate Process in Florida
If you’re searching online for a “probate attorney near me,” it’s likely because you want to minimize the complexity and timeline of your probate process. Probate timelines vary based on many factors, which is why a Florida probate lawyer can help reduce unnecessary complexities. The following factors affect the length of the probate process in Florida:
- Size and complexity of the estate: Many assets and beneficiaries require more titling, documentation, and complexities.
- Disputes among heirs or beneficiaries: Beneficiaries and interested parties may dispute their estate distributions.
- Debts the deceased owed: If the deceased owed a lot of money, you must deal with debt collectors, estate divisions, and more.
- Tax issues: Probate processes often involve estate taxes and the decedent’s personal tax return.
Various legal challenges can arise during probate that extends the process. Entering the probate process with an experienced and professional attorney helps you prepare for a smooth, expedited experience.
Denise Jomarron Legal Group: Helping Grieving Families Settle the Affairs of their Loved One
If you’re searching for a Florida probate lawyer, you’re already on the right path to making the probate process smoother and faster. At Denise Jomarron Legal Group, we want you to know you’re not alone. We help grieving families settle the affairs of their loved one after their passing and assist them with transferring assets by guiding them through the probate process.
Contact us at (305) 402-4494 or complete our online form to schedule a complimentary 20-minute strategy session with a Florida probate lawyer from our team.
Copyright © 2023. Denise Jomarron Legal Group. All rights reserved.
The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
Denise Jomarron Legal Group
4300 Biscayne Blvd. Suite 305
Miami, FL 33137-3255