How the Florida Probate Process Works

Probate is the legal process in which the Court ensures that a person’s final debts are paid and their assets are distributed to their beneficiaries and heirs.

The first step is to contact an experienced estate law attorney and provide the attorney with a copy of the Decedent’s Will – if one exists. If a Will does not exist, the Decedent’s estate would be administered through the laws of intestacy. The attorney will then file a Petition for Administration to open a probate in the county where the Decedent lived. The Court will review the Petition and confirm that the Will was properly executed and is valid.

Once the Court accepts the Petition for probate, the person named in the Will as the personal representative for the estate (or person Petitioning through the laws of intestacy) will take an inventory of all the Decedent’s assets and submit that to the attorney. The inventory should include all bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, any other investment accounts, homes, cars, jewelry, and life insurance policies. The attorney will review all the documents for these assets and determine if they need to be administered through probate or can pass directly to the heirs and beneficiaries. Assets that designated a beneficiary, are held as joint tenants with right of survivorship, are pay on death, or are held in a living trust can avoid the probate process.

The personal representative also works with the attorney to publish a notice to creditors notifying them about the estate administration. After the notice to creditors is published, creditors have three months to file any claims against the estate. If the creditors fail to make a claim, they will generally be forever barred from collecting on the debt. The personal representative also must pay any outstanding tax bills on the estate. The attorney will advise on the process for paying the outstanding debts and taxes.

Once all of the creditors and taxes are paid, the attorney will Petition the court to distribute the remaining assets as detailed by the Will, or if the decedent passed without a Will, based on Florida’s intestate laws. After the remaining assets are distributed, the attorney will close the estate.

The probate process has strict deadlines that must be met, petitions to be filed, taxes to be determined and filed, and assets to be lawfully distributed. In addition, in some cases, there could be disagreements between beneficiaries, heirs, and/or the personal representative. The process can take up to two years to complete. It is essential to have expert legal counsel to guide you through this process. Any missteps along the way could subject you to fines, penalties, unnecessary tax bills, or litigation. Contact an estate planning attorney for the expert guidance you need.

The estate planning attorneys at Huth, Pratt, and Milhauser have guided hundreds of clients through the probate process when a loved one has passed away. Moreover, our attorneys can develop an estate plan for you that will allow your assets to bypass the probate process and go straight to your beneficiaries and heirs. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.

Huth, Pratt and Milhauser

Huth, Pratt and Milhauser is a boutique law firm that offers a wide range of legal services in the specialty areas of wills, trusts, estates, probate, guardianship, and related matters. The range of legal services that Huth, Pratt & Milhauser provides in these specialty areas includes planning, administration and litigation. The experience and skills of our attorneys and staff, coupled with our knowledge of applicable law, enable us to provide outstanding representation to our clients.

Although we are located in South Florida, we proudly serve clients throughout the country and around the world from our Boca Raton offices. We strive to provide superior and focused counsel in a timely manner and at a competitive price.

Huth, Pratt and Milhauser

2500 North Military Trail, Suite 460

Boca Raton, Florida   33431

Phone: 561-392-1800


2500 North Military Trail, Suite 460
Boca Raton, Florida   33431
Phone: 561-392-1800

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