Florida Probate Process: How Long Should You Expect?

May 5, 2023 | Probate

Probate Law Book and Last Will and Testament on a table

In the last ten years, Florida has witnessed an impressive increase of almost 50% in probate court filings, a rate more than double the state’s overall population growth during the same timeframe. The exact reason for this surge remains unclear, but the notable expansion of Florida’s elderly population may have played a role in this phenomenon.

Some of these probate cases are relatively straightforward and move quickly through the system. However, for others with disputes or other issues, Florida probate durations 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 wondered, what is the probate completion time in Florida? Understanding the duration of probate in Florida is essential for those dealing with the process, as it can help set expectations and prepare for any potential challenges.

The probate process can be challenging to navigate for the layperson. It can take anywhere from months to years to complete, depending on various 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. Fortunately, this is a common problem, and there are solutions available.

This article will provide an overview of the Florida probate court timeline, helping you to better understand the process and its duration. So keep reading to find out how long probate takes in Florida and typical Florida probate waiting times.

What Is Probate?

Probate is a legal process of distributing the Estate of a deceased person. These asset distributions are typically done per 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 a family matter, this is not always the case.

A variety of figures are interested in the probate process beyond the immediate family. These may include:

  • Friends
  • Heirs
  • Creditors
  • Personal Representatives
  • Other interested parties

It will all depend on the state of the deceased’s finances before their death.

Probate Procedure

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 Trustee 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 and have never been convicted of a felony. Finally, 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 the Will or Estate administration, they move to probate court litigation.

There are three common types of probate disputes.

Will Contest

The first is a Will contest, where one party argues 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.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty

The second type of probate dispute is for breach of fiduciary duty. This occurs when the Estate Administrator does not act in the best interest of the beneficiaries throughout the process.

Surviving Spouse Claim

The last type is for surviving spouse claims.

Once disputes are sufficiently settled — or if there are no disputes — the probate process can move forward. At this stage, the Trustee will pay taxes and any other valid claims to settle any money the Estate owes.

From there, Estate assets are then distributed to beneficiaries. The Trustee then makes a final accounting to the court.

While this process may seem simple enough, 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

Florida law outlines three types of probate proceedings, each with its own probate administration period and requirements.

Formal Administration

The first type is Formal Administration. This is the most common probate type but also the most involved. In cases where the deceased’s Estate is worth over $75,000, it must pass through the Formal Administration probate process. This is true when the individual in question passes away 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.

Summary Administration

The second type of probate proceeding in Florida is Summary Administration. This is a less formal probate process. Summary Administration proceedings are simpler 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.

Disposition Without Administration

The third type of probate proceedings is Disposition without Administration. This option avoids probate altogether. Although, it is only available in specific, limited circumstances. This option is often 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.

Out-of-State Wills

For Wills that were drafted and executed in another state, Florida probate courts will typically recognize them as valid. However, 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, the court will not accept this. The Estate would be subject to Florida’s intestate succession laws in those cases.

How Long Does Probate Take in Florida?

The answer for the Florida probate process length, or Florida Estate settlement time, will vary by case. Understanding the timeframe for Florida probate can be crucial for those involved.

Generally speaking, the length of time for a Formal Administration case will span between one to two years. However, Summary Administration is significantly expedited—often taking less than a month.

These are general probate timeline spans. But, the probate process easily gets dragged out if disputes or other difficulties arise along the way.

Florida Probate Timeline

No blanket timeline applies to all probate cases. But check out this sample timeline to get a good idea of how complex these cases are and why they require such a significant time commitment.

  • 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. Altogether a case could take 24 months from start to finish. Again, please note these are approximate timelines intended to provide a concept of the timeframe for a typical probate case. Often things will move much faster, especially if you have an experienced and competent probate attorney.

Other Factors Affecting the Length of Time for Probate

In addition to disputes, various other factors can increase the probate timeline.

The Estate size in question is one of the essential factors in the probate process. As the number of assets—and their relative value—within the Estate increases, the time required to distribute these assets also increases.

With many assets comes large amounts of paperwork, legal discussions, and decision-making involved. This can be dragged out even more with 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 Will’s legitimacy, the Court must investigate. They can only administer assets once the Will is confirmed.

If the deceased left behind a 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 paid. This means the Trustee or beneficiaries must make these claims for money owed.

Plus, in some states, an Estate tax is a further financial burden to handle. This process can take anywhere from months to years to complete. Unfortunately, the Estate can only be closed once 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.

What to Do With Property Awarded in Probate

After going through the probate process, you may be 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 be unwilling to keep or maintain the home.

The reason for not holding on to inherited Florida real estate can be various. For one, it may be in a different location than you, making it unrealistic to keep. Or, you could use the money in other areas. On the other hand, in some situations, the property may be different from your living standards.

For whatever 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, getting it up to snuff for the traditional real estate market can be a nightmare.

This can be a daunting task for family members still grieving a loss — especially those not located particularly close by. Fortunately, there is a simple solution for selling these properties at a fair price. The best part? Your inherited home in Florida can be sold in its current condition.

Selling With RealOfferNow

For families still grieving the loss of a loved one, the thought of selling their home may be emotionally pressing enough. However, having to go through and clean out, renovate, and prepare the house for sale might be a greater burden than they can bear.

Fortunately, there is an easy solution. RealOfferNow, owned by Harmony Holdings Group, will buy your house regardless of its condition. We provide a guaranteed offer with cash in a matter of days, plus these added benefits:

  • No need to repair the home
  • No showings to multiple strangers
  • No cleaning or staging required
  • Offers are promptly provided, with closing on a timeline that works for you

In Florida, we pay cash for homes in the following locations:

  • Pinellas County
  • Polk County
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  • Pasco County
  • Hernando County
  • Citrus County
  • Bradenton
  • St. Petersburg
  • Tampa
  • Clearwater
  • Husdson
  • Lakeland
  • Bartow
  • New Port Richey

RealOfferNow makes selling your house safer, faster, and easier. We have purchased many homes in varying conditions throughout Florida, and we 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 probate process can be draining for loved ones still grieving a recent loss. With all of this on your plate, the last thing you need to worry about is how to deal with an inherited home.

Regardless of the condition, we want to buy your house. If you’re wondering how we can help you, contact us today and speak with one of our helpful Sales Consultants.

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