In the Fiscal Year 2018-2019, there were more than 133,000 probate filings in the state of Florida.
Some of these cases are fairly straightforward and move through the system rather quickly. Others with disputes or other issues can take significantly longer to complete the necessary judicial processes.
Unfortunately, this is more common than you might think. Among other things, you may have found yourself wondering, how long does probate take in Florida?
The probate process can be difficult to navigate for the layperson. It can take anywhere from months to years to complete, depending on a variety of factors.
After asset distribution is complete, you may find yourself drained. But now, you have property on your hands that you aren’t sure what to do with. Luckily, this problem occurs often—and there are solutions available.
Keep reading to find out—how long does probate take in Florida? Plus, read on for tips on what to do next.
What Is Probate?
Probate is a legal process of distributing the estate of a deceased person. This is typically done in accordance with their Last Will and Testament.
However, some individuals die without a will. These cases still go through the probate procedure. But, their assets get distributed in line with intestacy laws of succession.
Probate can be a costly and time-consuming process for all parties involved. While it may seem like it would be a family matter, this is not always the case.
There are a variety of figures who may find interest in the probate process, beyond the immediate family. This may include:
- Personal representatives
- Other interested parties
It will all depend on the state of the deceased’s finances prior to their death.
The first step is to file the will with the probate court. From there, the court will appoint a trustee, who acts as a point person in asset distribution. This is also known as a “personal representative.”
This figure must be a resident of Florida. If not, they must be relatives of the deceased by blood, marriage, or adoption.
Furthermore, they must be at least 18 years old and never convicted of a felony. The court must deem this figure mentally and physically capable of serving in this position.
The court will also notify beneficiaries and creditors of the estate at this point. If disputes arise involving either the will or the estate administration, they move to probate court litigation.
There are three common types of probate dispute.
The first is a will contest, where one party raises an argument that the will should be declared invalid. This could be due to the deceased’s lack of mental capacity when constructing the will. It could also be from undue influence or lack of formalities.
The second type of probate dispute is for breach of fiduciary duty. This occurs when the administrator of the estate does not act in the best interest of the beneficiaries throughout the process.
The last type is for surviving spouse claims.
Once disputes are sufficiently settled—or if there are no disputes at all—the probate process can move forward. At this stage, the trustee will pay taxes and any other valid claims to settle any money owed by the estate.
From there, estate assets are then distributed to beneficiaries. The trustee then makes a final accounting to the court.
While this process may not seem overly complicated, it can grow extremely complex. The probate timeline will vary from case to case, but typically requires several months.
Laws Pertaining to Probate in Florida, Specifically
Under Florida law, there are three different types of probate proceedings.
The first type is formal administration. This is the most common type of probate, but is also the most involved.
In cases where the deceased’s estate is worth over $75,000, then it must pass through the formal administration probate process. This is true when the individual in question died within two years.
These probate cases take place in the Circuit Court of the county in which the deceased lived at the time of death.
The second type of probate proceeding in Florida is summary administration. This is a less formal probate process.
Summary administration proceedings are beneficial as they are conducted on an expedited basis. But, this option is only available for cases where the deceased passed away more than two years ago. It is also open to estates with a value of less than $75,000.
The third type of probate proceedings is disposition without administration. This option avoids probate altogether. Though, it is only available in specific, limited circumstances.
Most often, this option is used when the deceased did not own real estate, and/or the value of their estate is less than the costs of traditional probate proceedings.
With any probate proceedings, issues and disputes can often arise. Some wills carry “no contest” clauses which are designed to discourage various parties from challenging the content of the will. But, in the state of Florida, these clauses are unenforceable.
For wills that were drafted and executed in another state, Florida probate courts will typically recognize it as valid. This is only true if the will is considered valid under the laws of the state in which it was drafted.
If the will is oral or handwritten in its entirety, the court will not accept this. In those cases, the estate would be subject to Florida’s intestate succession laws.
How Long Does Probate Take in Florida?
The answer for how long probate takes in Florida will vary by case. Of course, adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic has only further added to the timeframe.
Generally speaking, the length of time for a formal administration case will span between one to two years. Summary administration is significantly expedited—often taking less than a month.
These are just general probate timeline spans. But, the probate process easily gets dragged out if disputes or other difficulties arise along the way.
There is no blanket timeline that applies to all probate cases. But, to get a good idea of how complex these cases are and why they require such a large time commitment—check out this sample timeline.
- Petition for probate prepared and filed — 2-4 months
- Hearing on petition for probate — 2 months
- Issue letters of administration, orders for probate, duties and liabilities — 2 months
- Probate bond issued (if required) — 2 months
- Notice to creditors — 2 months
- Notice to Department of Health Services — 6 months
- Estate inventory and appraisal — 6 months
- Pay state and/or federal taxes (if necessary) — 6 months
- Creditor claims are paid — 6 months
- Notice to Franchise Tax Board — 6 months
- Tax clearance letters — 5 months
- File Petition for Final Distribution & Accounting — 8 months
- Hearing on Petition for Final Distribution & Accounting — 8 months
- Order approving Final Distribution & Accounting — 8 months
- Distribution of assets — 9 months
- Final discharge order — 9 months
- Final distribution of estate funds, probate concluded — 15 months
Some of these processes run concurrently, while others rely on careful successions of events. Together, this case would take 24 months from start to finish. Again, please note these are approximate figures intended to provide a concept of the timeframe for a typical probate case.
It’s also important to note this example does not have any disputes. These situations only further delay the typical probate procedure.
Other Factors Affecting the Length of Time for Probate
In addition to disputes, there are various other factors that can increase the probate timeline.
The size of the estate in question is one of the most important factors in the probate process. As the number of assets—and their relative value—within the estate increases, the length of time required to distribute these assets also increases.
With many assets comes large amounts of paperwork, legal discussions, and decision-making involved. This becomes even more dragged out with more complicated assets, like property within a trust, for example.
Another factor playing a significant role in the probate timeline is the structure of the will. If there is any doubt surrounding the legitimacy of the will, the court has a duty to investigate. They cannot administer any assets until the will is confirmed.
If the deceased left behind particularly messy or unclear will, it often takes a while for the court to sort it out. Plus, if there is no will at all, the probate process can become even more complex and thus more time-consuming to sort out.
Another significant factor is the financial status of the estate. If the deceased left behind existing taxes or debts, they must first be satisfied. This means the trustee or beneficiaries must make these claims for money owed.
Plus, in some states, there is an estate tax that adds a further financial burden to handle. This process can take anywhere from months to years to complete. Unfortunately, the estate cannot be closed until these issues are resolved.
Finally, a last significant factor is the number of heirs in the estate. With more beneficiaries to take into account, the longer the probate process takes. Plus, statistically speaking—the more heirs to the estate, the higher the possibility of disagreements and disputes occurring.
What to Do With Property Awarded in Probate
After going through the probate process, you may find yourself mentally and physically exhausted.
While it is nice to have your role in a loved one’s life recognized with a gift of property, sometimes it may not align with your interests. This is especially true with real estate. For one reason or another, you may just simply be uninterested in maintaining the home.
This can be the case for a variety of reasons. On one hand, it may be in a different location that would make it unrealistic. Or, the money may be better used in other areas.
In some situations, the property may not be up to your living standards.
For whichever reason you may decide to sell, this can bring about a whole other host of frustrations. If the house is not up to par with similar homes in the area, it can be a nightmare to get it up to snuff for the traditional real estate market.
For family members still grieving a loss—especially those not located particularly close by—this can be taxing. Luckily, there is a simple solution to offload these properties at reasonable offers. The best part? They are sold in their current condition.
Selling With RealOfferNow
For families still grieving after the loss of a loved one, the thought of selling their home may be emotionally pressing enough. The thought of having to go through and clean out, renovate, and prepare the house for sale might just be too much.
Luckily, there is an easy solution. RealOfferNow will buy your house, regardless of its condition. They provide guaranteed cash in a matter of days, plus these benefits:
- No need to repair the home
- No showings to multiple strangers
- No cleaning or staging required
Offers are provided in about an hour, with closing on a timeline that works for you.
In Florida, we pay cash for houses in the following locations:
- Pinellas County
- Polk County
- Hillsborough County
- Pasco County
- Manatee County
- St. Petersburg
- New Port Richey
RealOfferNow makes it easy to sell your house safer, faster, and easier. We have purchased many homes across Florida, and look forward to working with you to sell your property.
Post-Probate in Florida
Now you can answer, how long does probate take in Florida?
But going through this process can be draining for loved ones, who are still trying to grieve a recent loss. With all of this on your plate, the last thing you want to worry about is how to offload a newly-passed-down home.
Regardless of the condition, we want to buy your house. If you’re wondering what you could walk away with, contact us today for a real offer in minutes!