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  • Ryan J. Smollar

How Long Does Probate Take in Florida?

The Florida probate timeline question is not an easy one to answer. In a relatively simple and straightforward case, the Florida probate steps can take between 6 and 12 months. More complicated probate cases, especially if a will is contested and/or there are arguments among beneficiaries, may last two to three years.


The Florida probate timeline can be so long because there are many stages in the probate process, each of which is time-consuming. To understand the steps for probate in Florida, the chronology of steps that must take place is listed below.


The Initial Filing for Probate


In Florida, after the decedent has passed, the individual possessing the will should file probate within ten days from the date of death. Probate should be filed in the same county where the decedent passed away. The 10-day time limit is not an absolute rule, and some people may file probate a little later, without facing any penalty, depending on the circumstances.


The Validity of the Will


One of the first things that the probate court will do is determine the validity of the will. The time to assess the validity can depend on many circumstances. If there are no concerns about the will, there is usually no time wasted. However, suppose any one of the beneficiaries argues about the validity of the will or has concerns that it is forged or was obtained under duress. In that case, this can prolong the probate process.


Issuance of Letters of Administration


To fulfill the duties of a personal representative, the probate court first needs to accept the individual as the executor of the state formally. This task is accomplished by the court issuing Letters of Administration to the individual to legally perform the necessary duties. In general, the probate court may take anywhere from 10-30 days to issue the Letters of Administration to the personal representative.


Finding and Notifying the Creditors


After the Letters of Administration have been issued, the executor needs to find the creditors by placing an ad in newspapers for two consecutive weeks or writing to the creditors if they are known. They should be informed about the decedent’s death and the start of the probate process. Even though there is no set deadline for this process, the probate court recommends that it should be done ASAP.


In most cases, the notice to the creditors is published within 14 days. The creditors, in turn, have 90 days from the time they receive the notice to file their claims. The executor must make a reasonable attempt to find who the creditors are and report to the court with proof of this search.


Death Certificate


All creditors must be provided with evidence of the decedent's death within three months of issuing the notice of the probate process. A death certificate is usually mailed to the creditors.


Notifying the Court


After the notice has been issued to the creditors, the executor must submit a verified statement to the probate court within four months, stating the creditors’ names who have a claim against the estate.


Objections


If there are no objections to the will or the size of the estate, then things can move along. In general, all beneficiaries or creditors have 30 days to challenge any accounting of the estate assets. These objections have to be filed in court, and further investigations are required. But if one of the beneficiaries questions the size of the estate or finances, then this can prolong the probate process.


Collecting Receipts


After the creditor's bills have been settled and taxes paid, the executor must collect the receipts to show to the court. Only then can the assets be distributed to the beneficiaries. This final filing of receipts has to be completed within 12 months before the time of issuance of the Letters of Administration.


Estate Closure


The final step in the probate process is to close the estate. This is a simple process that involves signing off that everyone has been paid.


The Total Time


Based on the above, even the simplest Florida probate timeline can last 6-8 months. If any beneficiaries or heirs have objections and the will is contested, the process can last longer. If you are taking the necessary steps for probate in Florida, the best advice is to consult with a probate attorney who can advise and guide you to meet all the deadlines. The attorney can even come to probate court with you to help resolve any issues. A knowledgeable probate lawyer is your best course of action. Call Elder Law today.

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