Florida probate options and how long they take
Depending on the size and complexity of the estate, probate in Florida take anywhere from one month to 18 months or more.
Formal administration is the most common type of probate in Florida.
Under formal administration, all the steps of the process are court-supervised and it takes a minimum of six months, but most commonly takes 18 months.
Summary administration is a faster probate path, with fewer steps and less court supervision. It is available for estates valued at less than $75,000 with no debt.
For very small estates whose assets are worth less than their final expenses, you can simply file a “disposition without administration” form to probate court to settle your loved one’s estate.
When a loved one dies who lived in or owned property in Florida, the timeline for settling their financial and legal affairs can be measured in weeks, months, or years. It all depends on the size and complexity of the estate they’re leaving behind.
In terms of timing, the most important thing to remember is at the beginning of the process: Florida requires that your loved one’s will be filed in the county where they lived within 10 days of their death. This action begins the probate process.
Since the immediate aftermath of a loved one’s passing is a painful and bewildering period, it can be challenging to meet deadlines and perform administrative duties. Once you’ve met this filing deadline, however, Florida law does provide some leeway around deadlines and timelines through the rest of the process.
The types of probate in Florida
There are two main paths for probate in Florida: formal administration and summary administration.
Formal administration is the longest process and the most common. With formal administration, the steps of the probate process are under the supervision of probate court. It takes a minimum of six months, but it generally takes 18 months, and, as in any state, complex and litigated estates can add a year or more to the timeline.
In almost all cases, Florida law requires that a licensed attorney administer the estate.
With summary administration, probate usually takes one to two months. It is an expedited, easier process, but not everyone qualifies for this option.
To meet the criteria for summary administration, your loved one’s estate must be valued at less than $75,000 in non-exempt assets, with no debt—including credit card or medical bills.
Or, if it has been at least two years since your loved one died and their estate is valued below $75,000, then summary administration may be a good option. At that point, debt is no longer an issue because in Florida, creditors have a two-year window to make claims.
The order of summary administration, which gives the heirs access to the assets, generally takes two to three weeks (depending upon the county).
Another option, which is available in very limited circumstances, is to pursue “disposition without administration.” You can take this path, which only involves filing a form with probate court, if your loved one’s assets are worth less than the value of the final expenses.
Getting started with formal administration in Florida
In almost all cases, Florida law requires that a licensed attorney administer the estate. The probate code also specifies reasonable attorney fees, though they are only guidelines.
Within 10 days of your loved one’s death, you’ll need to file the original will and initiate probate in the county in which the person was living or owned property.
Next, the personal representative—the person (usually a family member) who is legally empowered to act on behalf of the estate—will notify those named in the will and all potential legal heirs that the estate is open.
Within 1-4 weeks, the probate court issues letters of administration to the personal representative if there are no challenges.
Notifying creditors for a Florida estate
Once probate has begun, you are required to notify creditors that your loved one has died and that an estate has been opened.
In addition, the personal representative must publish a general notice to creditors in a newspaper where your loved one lived at least once per week for two consecutive weeks. It is generally advised to do this within 30 days, and proof must be submitted to the court.
Creditors typically have three months from the date the notice is published to file claims against the estate. With known creditors, a personal representative can speed up probate by sending them a separate document, known as a Formal Notice, that gives them 30 days to respond.
Creditors who did not receive notice to creditors, however, can make claims for as long as two years from the date of death.
Throughout this period, the personal representative must make a list of all known and potential creditors and file this with the court.
Final steps for probate in Florida
Inventory the assets: File a list of estate assets and their values with the court and send it to all beneficiaries.
Within 3 months of the notice to creditors: File formal proof of death with the court.
Within 4 months of the notice to creditors: The executor must submit to the court a verified statement that they have diligently checked for all legitimate creditors.
Within 6 months of the start of probate: Surviving spouses can elect to exercise rights to their shared home, certain exempt property, and a share of the person’s overall estate in place of what the will specified.
Pay debts: During this time, the personal representative can manage and sell the estate assets. They also need to file and pay estate taxes and prepare a final estate accounting.
Within 1 year, distribute the assets: Once all the claims against the estate are satisfied, the personal representative can transfer the remaining assets to beneficiaries according to the terms of the will. Or, if there is no will, following the state laws of inheritance.
Close the estate. For an estate to be considered fully administered in Florida and legally closed, all creditors and beneficiaries must have received the proper notices, all assets must have been accounted for, inventoried, and valued, the personal representative must have provided a final accounting to the beneficiaries, and any litigation must be resolved.
By 2 years from death: No further claims against an estate are permitted ●
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