Frequently Asked Questions About the Florida Probate Process

Though all are familiar with the term probate, few have a full understanding of what it is and how it works.  The following is a list of frequently asked questions, designed to increase your understanding of probate in Florida:

  • What is probate?

In Florida, when a loved one dies, his or her estate may go through the process of probate.  Probate is a court-supervised process through which one’s assets are distributed to either those heirs named in a will or according to the laws of intestacy.  Probate generally takes place in all cases unless the deceased has placed his or her assets in a properly created and funded living trust.  When a will exists, the court will prove its validity during probate.

  • How long does probate take?

Probate is generally thought to be a lengthy process, and for most estates it is indeed time-consuming.  The length of probate in any state is largely contingent upon the creditor notice and claims period.  In Florida, all claims must be filed three months from the date the notice to creditors is first published.  Therefore, it would be essentially impossible to close the estate in less than four months.  The average timeframe for completion of the probate process in Florida is six to eight months, although far longer has been recorded.  The length of your specific case will depend upon many factors, including whether real estate must be sold, litigation ensues, or tax returns are needed.  A seasoned probate attorney will review the basics of the estate and be able to provide you further guidance as to the likely length of probate.

  • How much does probate cost in Florida?

One of the most common concerns most people have is what cost will be involved in probate.  If a small estate is involved, it is important to know the anticipated cost of probate to determine whether it is justified.  The cost of the probate process will depend largely on the size of the estate, but it helps to first outline where the expenses arise.

The largest cost in probate proceedings are generally attorney’s fees.  While other expenses are involved, such as accounting fees, filing fees, and publication costs, these costs pale in comparison to the attorney’s fees involved.  Probate attorney’s fees are nearly inevitable, as well, because Florida law requires a probate attorney for most cases.

In Florida, the attorney acting on behalf of the personal representative may charge a reasonable attorney’s fee.  The attorney is paid from the assets of the estate, and therefore will impact the overall amount the heirs will receive.  Accordingly, the state has more guidance on these attorney’s fees than in other areas of the law.

The Florida probate code provides a list of fees which it deems reasonable.  The fees are broken down by the compensable value of the estate.  This entire list can be referred to and will provide you will a general idea as to the likely expense involved in your probate case.

  • Who can serve as a personal representative in Florida?

In Florida, each estate must be represented by someone during the probate process.  This individual is generally referred to as the personal representative.  Personal representatives can be most anyone, so long as they are not a convicted felon or minor, and are mentally and physically capable of performing the task.  If a will exists, the person selected in it will generally become the personal representative. When an individual dies intestate, preference goes first to the spouse and next to the person selected by a majority of the heirs.  Non-residents who are closely related to the decedent are able to serve as personal representative.

Scott Law Group, PLC, Can Simplify the Probate Process

            At Scott Law Group, PLC, we understand how complex probate can be and acknowledge the often challenging timing of the process.  We are experienced, compassionate probate attorneys who will guide you through the probate process as quickly, and with as little stress as possible.  Call Scott Law Group, PLC, today (727) 754-5001 to schedule a free consultation.