What to Expect: General Florida Probate Timeline
Uncertainty in life is unavoidable. No matter how carefully we plan and what contingencies are in place, there are only so many things any of us can control. While estate planning and probate matters can cause stirrings of anxiety in anyone, what really eats at people seems to be the unknown. The court and probate process is unfamiliar to most Florida citizens. In addition, the first time people really have to navigate through this process is likely to be when they are in the midst of grief. The probate process does not have to be confusing or frightening. This article aims to give those who are first looking into the probate process a general roadmap of what to expect in the process. Here we will discuss the general timeline and major steps in the probate process, and a general idea of what to expect.
Florida Probate Timeline
If you were to ask “how long will the Florida probate process take?” The answer, like so many things in life, is “it depends.” There is no one-size-fits-all timeline for the probate process. There are many reasons for this, and the timeline will depend on the nuances of your particular case. However, the speed at which a probate case is completed will heavily depend on how quickly each of the following milestones is completed.
- Filing any Valid Will
Not every estate will have a last will and testament dictating the testator’s wishes. However, it is vitally important to the speedy completion of the probate process to submit any valid will to the probate court.
An estate with no last will and testament will be subject to the intestacy laws of probate. This means that inheritances will almost certainly work out differently than they would if terms are dictated in a will.
The last will and testament should be filed in the circuit court within the county which the testator resided in at the time of their death.
- File the Petition for Administration
Filing the Petition for Administration is, essentially, formally requesting for a will to be entered into the probate process.
- Appoint Personal Representative
The personal representative will be responsible for gathering the testator’s assets and distributing them appropriately to any beneficiaries/heirs. The personal representative will also be responsible for important items such as posting notice to creditors of the testator’s death. Given the heft of their responsibilities, it is wise to carefully consider who is most appropriate to take on this role.
- Confirm the Will is Valid
The court will ensure that the last will and testament satisfies all requirements for a valid will under Florida law. This includes the will being signed, notarized, and created without undue influence.
- Notice to Creditors
Creditors must be formally notified and put on notice of a testator’s death. This notification must be published for two consecutive weeks in either a local newspaper or a newspaper of general circulation in the county. Proof of the publication must be submitted to the court within 45 days of the initial publication.
This notice is important, as it provides creditors with a window of opportunity to settle any outstanding debts or claims with the testator’s estate. This also prevents these same creditors from coming in at a much later date and attempting to submit new claims.
The personal representative must create an inventory, or accounting, of the estate’s assets. Any interested parties have 30 days to file any dispute of the accounting, after which the court will hold a final hearing to review/confirm and authorize the accounting.
After the accounting has been authorized, the personal representative will file for discharge of the estate. This allows the assets to be distributed. After assets are distributed and debts resolved, the court will order the estate closed.
All of the steps above are general guidelines of what you can generally expect in the probate process. Each estate is unique and will require specific action. An experienced probate attorney can help.
Contact Suncoast Civil Law
The experienced Sarasota probate litigation lawyers at Suncoast Civil Law are available to help you navigate through any probate matter. Contact our office today to discuss your case.