How long does probate take? Whether you are creating your Last Will and Testament or are a personal representative wondering how long you will have to deal with probate, this is a common question. Florida probate is not a very complicated process, but it can be a long one. If you have questions about the probate process in Florida, contact the experienced probate attorneys with Loughlin Law, P.A. at (561) 677-8384 to schedule your individual consultation.
What Are the Two Types of Probate in Florida?
In Florida, there are two types of probate. The first type is a formal probate process. The formal process is the most common probate. Formal probate includes appointing a personal representative, a 90-day creditors period, payment of creditors’ claims, and more.
The second type of probate is called summary probate. This form of probate is typically for small estates worth less than $75,000 with no debt. A summary probate is a much quicker process that gives heirs access to assets via a court order. This process skips over many of the steps in the formal process, such as the 90-day creditors period. All beneficiaries must consent to the summary petition before it can be submitted to the court.
How Long Does Probate Take in Florida?
The probate process in Florida begins with the original will being deposited after an individual has died, then filing for administration and an order admitting the will to probate. A simple summary probate can be completed in three months or less. The more typical formal probate often takes 6-12 months to complete. If an estate is complex or litigated, the probate process may take two years or more to complete.
The typical probate process starts with filing the will and the executor, or personal representative, receiving Letters of Administration that allow them to fulfill their duties. The executor will then notify beneficiaries of the death, notify and pay creditors, and file the estate’s final accounting. If the final accounting is contested, resolving those disputes may extend the probate process. If the accounting is not contested, the executor will distribute assets according to the will’s instructions and provide the distribution receipts to the court before the estate is closed.
Important Florida Probate Deadlines
How long does probate take in Florida? While the answer to this question can vary depending on the size of the estate and whether it is litigated, there are some important deadlines that must be met as part of the probate process. If you have questions about the timeline of a probate case, the knowledgeable probate attorneys at Loughlin Law, P.A. may be able to advise you.
Some important probate deadlines include:
- Depositing the will to initiate probate: within 10 days of learning of the death
- Beneficiaries or other interested parties objecting to will: 20 days to three months, depending on whether they are a beneficiary, creditor, or other party
- Creditors filing a claim: 30 days after service of notice or three months after publication of notice
- Formal death certificate or other proof of death filed with the court: within three months after publication of notice to creditors in a formal probate or before entry of a summary probate
- Paying or objecting to bad debts when creditors file a claim: within 30 days of the claim being filed
- Surviving Spouse’s Election Rights: within the first six months of the probate process.
Who Can Be a Personal Representative in Florida Probate?
When an individual writes their will, they typically name the person they want to be their personal representative, or the executor of their will. However, the person they name must be qualified to be a personal representative in Florida.
The requirements to be named personal representative of a will in Florida are that the individual must be at least 18 years old and a Florida resident at the time the decedent died. If the decedent named a nonresident as their personal representative, per Florida Statute §733.304, they must meet one of the following requirements:
- The decedent’s legally adopted child or adoptive parent
- Related by lineal consanguinity (parent and child or grandparent and grandchild)
- A spouse, sibling, aunt, uncle, nephew, niece or related by lineal consanguinity to one of these
- A spouse of an otherwise qualified person from these requirements
What Happens if You Do Not Probate a Will in Florida?
Failing to probate a will is not a criminal offense in Florida. In fact, if the estate is $20,000 or less, with no more than two vehicles and limited assets as specified by Florida Statute §732.402, probate is not required. In that instance, an application for disposition without administration, accompanied by proper documentation, is all that is required.
However, for wills which do require probate, there are some potential consequences of failing to probate the will. These possible consequences include:
- Taxes may be unpaid
- Titled and non-titled assets will not be legally transferred from the decedent to the intended heirs
- Personal representative may be held personally liable if they were aware of their duty and their failure to probate the estate resulted in financial losses
- Disagreements and disputes may occur
- Creditors may continue to file claims against the estate
Is It Possible To Avoid Florida Probate?
As previously discussed, certain estates that are small enough can avoid the probate process. Other small estates can go through a shortened probate process. For larger estates, there are four primary ways that probate can be avoided in Florida:
- By designating beneficiaries on bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies
- Through use of lady bird deeds
- By creating living trusts and placing assets in those trusts
- When owning property jointly with another person as joint tenants with right of survivorship
Do You Have Questions About Probate and Wills?
How long does probate take? Depending on the type of probate, it can take as little as two or three months to a year or more. Six months to one year is average. The complexity of the estate, including whether there are out-of-state assets and whether anyone is contesting the will, often plays a large role in how long probate takes. If you have questions regarding a will, estate planning, or the probate process, our experienced attorneys may be able to help. Contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Loughlin Law, P.A. at (561) 677-8384 to schedule your consultation today.