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How Long Does Probate Take in Florida?


On average, it takes four to 12 months to probate a standard estate in Florida. This is normal for most jurisdictions. A standard estate must be open for at least three months. This is the minimum amount of time required for creditor notification. As a result, with additional processing time and delays, a standard estate typically cannot be resolved in less than four months. It is more common for this process to take six months, as most households have at least some significant assets to distribute, and larger estates can need a year or more for full distribution. But in some cases, small estates can be resolved in less than 30 days, though this is relatively uncommon. Here’s what you need to know.

For help protecting your assets, consider working with a financial advisor.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of distributing and overseeing an estate. When you die, all of your legal rights and responsibilities collectively become known as your “estate.” For most people much, if not all, of their estate is made up of their assets and remaining debts.

Probate will distribute your remaining financial rights and responsibilities. (In general, the only other matters might be any family or guardianship issues, which are typically handled by family courts.) This typically involves your estate paying off all remaining debts, or as many debts as possible if it is insolvent. Then your estate distributes any remaining assets to your heirs. 

If you left a will, your named executor manages this process according to your instructions. If you did not leave a will, a court-appointed administrator manages this process according to state law. 

In all cases, the probate process is overseen by a probate court. The court’s involvement is necessary for several reasons. Among others, the court enforces the rights of all heirs, creditors and other interested parties. In addition, the court provides an executor/administrator with the authority they need to access accounts, records, debts and other property. 

How Long Does Probate Last in Florida

A client meeting with a financial advisor to discuss an estate plan to avoid probate in Florida.

Technically, there is no maximum amount of time an estate can remain open. The executor or administrator will close the estate once all of its debts, liabilities and obligations have been resolved, and once all of its assets have been distributed. In Florida, there are two forms of probate and one relatively rare special circumstance: 

Formal Probate

This is the default process, and it applies to most estates. The major timeline with formal probate is as follows:

  • Filing: 10 Days

If someone dies with a will, the custodian of that will has 10 days from when they learn of the death to file that will with the probate court. If they miss the deadline without good cause, the custodian may be liable for anyone’s resulting costs and attorneys’ fees.

If someone dies intestate, there is no deadline to notify the probate court. All debts and assets will remain unresolved until probate is resolved, but no party has a legal obligation to begin the process.

  • Administrative Process

For probate to move forward, the court must process any existing will, appoint or recognize an executor, and issue letters of administration. These letters are court documents that give the executor authority to access the estate’s records, accounts and other private information. This process can take several weeks.

  • Creditor notice: 90 Days

Once probate has formally begun, the executor must keep the estate open for a minimum of 90 days. This gives creditors an opportunity to file claims with the estate or otherwise notify the executor of any debts. The executor must also place a notice of the decedent’s death and keep it in circulation for a reasonable time. This is typically done by running an ad in a newspaper for between 14 and 21 days.

During this time, the executor also must file an inventory with the court. This inventory must list the estate’s known assets. The executor has 60 days from their appointment to file this inventory. That clock runs concurrently with the creditor notice.

  • Close the estate

Once the 90 day creditor notice has expired, the executor can begin to close the estate. From here, the timeline will depend entirely on the complexity of the underlying issues. A simple estate, with a clear will and no significant issues, will typically be closed within another 30 days. Extremely complicated estates can take years to close. 

On average, you should expect it to take between four and 12 months to close an estate. Some of the issues that can delay closure include: contested inheritances, unexpected heirs, tax problems, complex investments, selling capital assets or property, business assets included in the estate, unknown or undiscovered assets, unknown or undiscovered debts, and valuable physical property. 

The larger the estate, the more likely it is that complications and disputes will arise, all of which can delay probate. 

Summary Probate

Summary probate is a process for either small or stale estates. If an estate is worth less than $75,000 or if the decedent has been dead for more than two years, the estate can qualify for summary probate. This is typically used for estates with little or no debt. 

After filing a will or notice of an intestate death with the probate court, you can file for summary probate. While any interested party can request summary probate, the filing must at a minimum include any surviving spouse and any named or significant beneficiaries.

Summary probate typically takes between three and four weeks to process. Once you receive a summary probate order, you can immediately request the estate’s assets from relevant third parties such as banks and life insurance companies. From there, the timeline will depend on the process of these third parties.

However, before you can receive summary probate you need to prove that you made a “diligent search and reasonable inquiry” for any creditors to the estate. You must also prove that you have made provision for the payment of any creditors. Typically this is handled by the heirs agreeing to take personal responsibility for any future claims, to the extent of their inheritance. This is why summary probate is typically restricted to estates with minimal debt, as managing significant debt can create risk for the heirs and impractically slow down the process.

Disposition Without Administration

Finally, there is disposition without administration. This is available to very small estates, and is typically used for estates that had little more than the money to cover funeral costs and medical bills.

With this process, you do not go through probate or any other formal process at all. You notify the probate court through any means appropriate (i.e. by letter, affidavit or even in-person). If the estate meets the requirements for disposition, the court will then issue an order for any necessary payments and asset transfers. 

This is generally reserved for estates that have no more combined value than: funeral costs, recent medical expenses for the deceased, and $10,000 in other assets. Certain assets can be exempted from this calculation, such as miscellaneous personal property or furniture. 

There is no formal timeline for disposition without administration, as it does not involve a formal process. Once the court receives your notice and determines that your claim is valid, it will turn around an appropriate order or letter granting you access to the estate. 

Bottom Line

A woman reviewing her estate plan in Florida.

Most estates in Florida take between four and 12 months to process. Much of that time is spent resolving the estate’s obligation to creditors and managing any financial complications or disputes. Expedited processes are available for estates, in general, worth less than $75,000 and $10,000 respectively.

Probate Management Tips

  • One major issue can complicate any probate process: asset class. Most of an estate’s assets will count toward probate laws, but some assets are held or distributed outside of the process. Here’s what that means.
  • A financial advisor can help you build a comprehensive retirement plan. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

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