One the Plante Law Group’s areas of practice is Probate Administration. The following is an overview of the process and answers to many commonly asked questions.

WHAT IS PROBATE ADMINISTRATION?: Probate administration in the state of Florida is a court supervised process for: identifying and gathering a deceased Florida resident's assets; paying the decedent’s federal income and/or estate taxes, creditor claims and expenses of probate administration; and distributing the decedents assets to the designated beneficiaries in conformity with the terms of the decedent’s last will and testament, and if none existed in conformity with the laws of intestate succession.
There are two types of probate administration under Florida law: (1) Formal Administration and (2) Summary Administration.

Florida Formal Administration: The Formal Probate Administration process begins with the preparation and filing of a Florida Petition for Administration (the “Petition”) with the deceased Florida resident's original Last Will and Testament (“Will”), if such exists. The Petition requests the Florida Probate Court to: (i) open a Florida probate estate for administration of the assets of the deceased Florida resident, (ii) accept the Will (if any), and (iii) appoint a Florida Personal Representative (by issuance of Letters of Administration). After the Letters of Administration are issued, all known beneficiaries and creditors receive notice of the filing of the Florida probate proceeding. A Notice of Administration or Notice to Creditors is then sent to any known party who may have a claim against the estate of the decedent.

Florida Summary Administration: The Summary Florida Probate Administration process may be utilized when the value of the entire deceased Florida resident’s probate estate does not exceed $75,000 or such decedent has been dead for more than two years. In a Florida Summary Administration proceeding, the Florida Probate Estate must not be indebted or provisions for payment of all such debts must be made. The Florida Summary Probate proceeding can be finalized and an Order of Summary Administration entered in a relatively short period of time, i.e., approximately twelve weeks.

WHAT ARE ANCILLARY PROBATE PROCEEDINGS?: The Ancillary Probate Administration process is utilized when a Non-Florida resident who owns real property in the state of Florida dies. This process is generally handled at the same time that the probate action in the state of residence is being administered. In order to commence the Ancillary Florida Probate proceeding the Florida probate court will require the following documents: (i) Certified copy of death certificate; and (ii) Exemplified or authenticated copies of the following documents from the Domiciliary Probate Court: (a) the Will, if there is one; (b) the Petition for administration, or similar document; (c) the Order admitting will to probate, if there is one; (d) the Order appointing personal representative; (e) the Letters of Administration, if still current; (f) a complete list of all assets individually owned by the decedent in the State of Florida; and (g) a list of the names and addresses of all the heirs and the relationship to the decedent. 

WHAT ARE PROBATE ASSETS? Assets that are the subject of probate administration constitute those assets that the decedent owned solely in his or her name at the time of death and those assets that were titled in the decedent’s name jointly with another individual but with no provision for automatic succession of ownership upon the decedent’s death.

Examples of Probate assets: A bank account in the sole name of a decedent, real estate titled in the sole name of the decedent or as a tenant in common with another person, and an insurance policy, annuity or retirement account payable to the decedent's estate. An insurance policy that has named only a single beneficiary who has predeceased the decedent may also become a probate asset.

Examples of Non-probate assets: A bank account held in-trust-for (ITF) another, or held jointly with rights of survivorship (JTWROS) with another, and a life insurance policy, annuity or individual retirement account that is payable to a specific beneficiary who is living. 

IS PROBATE NECESSARY? Florida probate administration is necessary to pass ownership of a decedent’s Florida probate assets to his or her beneficiaries. If the decedent left a valid will, unless the will is admitted to probate in the Florida Court, it will be ineffective to pass title to the decedent’s beneficiaries. If the decedent had no will, Florida probate is necessary to pass ownership to the decedent’s assets to those persons who are to receive them under Florida probate law. Florida probate administration is also necessary to wind up a decedent’s financial affairs after his or her death. Florida probate administration of a decedent’s estate ensures that the decedent’s creditors are paid if certain procedures are correctly followed.

WHERE ARE FLORIDA PROBATE PAPERS REQUIRED TO BE FILED? The Florida decedent’s will, if any, and certain other documents required in order to begin the Florida probate proceeding, are filed with the Clerk of the Florida Circuit Court in the county in which the decedent lived. A filing fee must be paid to the Clerk. The Florida Probate Clerk then assigns a file number, and maintains an ongoing record of all papers filed with the Clerk for the administration of the decedent’s Florida estate.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO ADMINISTER A FLORIDA PROBATE ESTATE? There is no set time period because the length of time is generally dependent upon the facts unique to each probate matter and whether any aspect of the estate administration is contested. For example, the personal representative may need to sell Florida real estate prior to settling the estate, or to resolve a disputed claim filed by a creditor, or a lawsuit filed to challenge the validity of the will. In addition, the beneficiaries to an estate may challenge the validity of the will, the appointment of the Personal Representative or certain actions taken by the Personal Representative during the course of estate’s administration. Any of these circumstances, if present, would tend to lengthen the Florida process of administration. Even the simplest of Florida probate estates generally must be open for at least the three-month creditor claim period; it is reasonable to expect that a simple, uncontested Florida probate estate will take about seven or eight months to properly handle. If the Florida probate estate does not have to file a federal estate tax return, the final accounting and other documents necessary to close the estate are first due within 12 months after the Court issues Letters of Administration to the Florida personal representative. This period can be extended if necessary.

If the Florida probate estate is required to file a federal estate tax return, the return is initially due nine months after the date of the decedent’s death, however, the time for filing the return can be extended for another six months. If a federal estate tax return is required, the final accounting and other documents to close the probate administration are due within 12 months from the date the estate tax return, as extended, is due. This date can also be extended if necessary. 


If you have would like to have a will or trust created on your behalf, have had a family member die and need to probate their estate, or would like to discuss any Probate related legal issues, please do not hesitate to call The Plante Law Group at (813) 875-LAWS (5297) to speak to a Probate Attorney regarding your legal matter.


"DISCLAIMER: The aforementioned practice area description is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as or relied upon as legal advice. Certain facts specific to your legal matter or changes in the law after this website was created may result in one or more of the above statements to be inapplicable or inaccurate."