After death, the executor or the personal representative of the decedent must file or register the original will with the local county where the decedent resided. One has the option of mailing in the copy of the will and death certificate or going in person. You will need to provide the date of death and/or the last four digits of the decedent’s social security number. Alternatively, an attorney can file the will on your behalf. If you’re looking to learn how to file a will in Florida, then keep reading.
Whichever path you decide to take, both the will and death certificate have to be original copies.
- If the original will cannot be found, the court will presume that it has been destroyed and probate will take place in the absence of the document.
- If the original will cannot be found but a copy exists, and if the court can be convinced that an original did exist, then the testimony of one independent witness is required to confirm this. The copy of the will can then be admitted to probate. If a copy cannot be found, then two independent witnesses will be required to testify.
Timeframe for Filing a Will in Florida
When filing a will in Florida, unless there is a valid reason, Florida law states that a will must be filed within 10 days from the death of the decedent. The original will is usually kept by the local county for at least 20 years. In the majority of cases, the individual who registers the will with the local court for probate is named the executor in the will. However, any other member of the family who may have an interest in the probate outcome may also file to become an executor. Sometimes, two people from the same family can act as executors. Filing a will in Florida is important because of the necessity of the probate process, especially when assets are involved.
What is Probate?
Probate is a legal process that permits the distribution of the decedent’s estate to the named beneficiaries in the will. Probate ensures that the decedent’s estate (all property and assets) is distributed according to his or her final wishes as stated in the will. In addition, the probate process will also permit settling any disputes with creditors and lien holders. Finally, the probate process will also determine what will happen to the decedent’s estate if there is no will. The laws governing probate do vary from state to state when a person dies without a will. In general, when there is no will, probate is almost always necessary. The probate process will legally accomplish the following matters:
- First, it will determine the validity of the will. Sometimes a family member may claim that the will is forged or that it was written by the decedent under duress. Hence, the courts will investigate this matter.
- If the decedent had not appointed a personal representative in the will, then the court will determine that individual. The person selected may or may not be related to the family of the decedent but, in most cases, is a relative or family member. Sometimes, two members are elected as personal representatives.
- The personal representative will itemize all the decedent’s estate, including real estate and assets.
- The personal representative will have all the decedent’s property appraised if there are any questions.
- The representative will send a notice to all lien holders and creditors that probate is taking place. Once probate is complete, these individuals will be the first to be paid.
- The personal representative will pay any residual tax owed by the decedent.
- Distribute the decedent’s estate to the named beneficiaries as stated in the will.
On average, the probate process in Florida takes a minimum of six months for simple cases where there are no disputes among the heirs, but if there are challenges to the will and the beneficiaries do not agree on their share of the inheritance, then probate can take 12 months or longer.
Want to know more about how to file a will in Florida? If you have been named as a personal representative in a will and do not know the process of filing a will in Florida, the best advice is to consult with a lawyer experienced in the processes of wills and probate. A lawyer who has specialized in wills, trusts, and probate processes can help guide you through the necessary steps. At the same time, the lawyer with expertise in wills, trusts, and probate matters can assist you with the probate process and represent you in court. This way, there should be no problems that arise that cannot be solved, and you will be in compliance with the Florida probate laws. Elder Law, P.A. is a respected and trusted source for lawyers who are recognized specialists in the processes of creating will and trusts, and in handling probate matters. If you are in need of a trusted lawyer for these matters, call them today at 1-561-933-5074.