Probate Administration in Florida

At Statewide Probate®, a division of McDonald Fleming Moorhead, our skilled probate and estate lawyers handle probate administration cases throughout Florida.

What is Probate?

In Florida, probate is the legal system through which certain assets of a deceased person are used to pay off the deceased's debts, and the remaining assets passed on to the heirs of the deceased person.

A Florida probate can include:

  • Proving to the Florida probate court that the deceased person's will is valid.
  • Identifying and preparing an inventory of the deceased person's property.
  • Determining the value of the deceased person's property.
  • Paying all debts and any taxes due.
  • Distributing the remaining property as the will or the law directs.
  • Attorney and court fees which are typically paid from estate assets.

Executors are under no obligation to use for probate the same law firm that wrote the will. Nearly all probate procedures in Florida involve paperwork drafted and filed by probate lawyers. Unlike some other states, Florida law generally does not allow "do-it-yourself" probate except in some cases involving very small bank accounts, refund checks, or similar assets.

Types of Probate Administration in Florida

The state of Florida has two types of probate administration: formal administration and summary probate.

Formal Probate Administration - The Normal Probate Process

A "formal administration" is the more involved of the two kinds of Florida probate administrations. A formal probate administration requires a minimum of five months to complete, and most take longer.

The following is an over-simplified description:

The process starts with a petition to open the estate and name one or more personal representatives (executors). After that, a Notice to Creditors is published in a local newspaper, and creditors generally have three months in which to file their claims.

Once the period of time for creditor claims has passed, the personal representative can pay the debts (in a certain order) and distribute the remaining estate. Once everything has been distributed, a petition for discharge is filed, and the Florida estate is closed.

While this may sound simple, probate is a fairly complex system of required and optional tasks by the personal representative, the attorney and sometimes a tax consultant (often a CPA). Of course, the simpler the assets and the deceased's plan of distribution, the simpler the Florida probate will be.

A single house and bank account left to a single beneficiary will no doubt be easier to administer than houses in four states split among 13 beneficiaries, some of whom are minors.

"Summary" probate process for small estates

The state also provides a "short form" of probate for certain smaller or older estates, which is quicker and cheaper than the "formal administration" used for most Florida probate administrations.

Summary probate administration is available for estates with "non-exempt" property of less than $75,000. The value of "homestead" real property is not counted in totaling the value of the estate.  Summary administration can also be used in any size estate if the deceased has been dead more than two years. Summary administration does not work in certain cases, such as those with missing or minor heirs, or where the assets or debts of the deceased are unknown.

Get a Free Florida Probate Administration Consultation

Whether you are dealing with formal probate administration or summary probate administration in Florida, Statewide Probate can help. For a free probate consultation, contact the Florida estate and probate attorneys at McDonald Fleming Moorhead. We serve clients from Pensacola, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Sarasota, Fort Myers, West Palm Beach, and throughout the state.