Florida’s Probate Process and Timelines
Many estate planners talk so much about avoiding probate that it is easy to assume probate is an insurmountably burdensome process. However, this is not always the case. While there can be certain benefits to avoiding or minimizing the necessity of the probate process, it is not overly burdensome so long as one has solid legal advice and assistance.
The probate process begins with the issuance of Letters of Administration to either the designated executor of the estate or, in the absence of a will, the person designated by Florida law to serve as administrator. These Letters give the holder the right to act on behalf of the estate and to take possession of the assets of the deceased person. Once designated, the personal representative must meet the following obligations:
- Arrange for the publication of a notice to creditors in the local newspaper
- Provide notice of administration to all parties in interest
- Notify known creditors directly of the existence of an estate
- Pay valid claims and contest claims that appear to be invalid
- File all required tax returns including final income tax returns and fiduciary income tax returns
- Distribute the remaining assets to beneficiaries according to the will or Florida law
- Close the estate by stating an accounting of the administration
The amount of time required for probate can vary depending on the size of the estate, the number of beneficiaries and creditors and other factors. The default deadline for closure of an estate is 12 months after the issuance of Letters of Administration. However, it is often necessary to extend this deadline. Working with an experienced Florida probate attorney can help ensure you do not miss any applicable steps or deadlines and that the administration proceeds in an orderly fashion.