We focus exclusively on Florida trust and estate law

Understanding the Florida probate process

On Behalf of | Jun 21, 2024 | Estate Planning

After a person dies, their estate goes through the probate process. This is the judicial process of administering the estate according to their will or state law if there is no will.

As such, it is important to understand the probate process when planning your estate to better ensure smooth asset distribution and minimize complications for your heirs.

What are the steps in the Florida probate process?

The probate process typically involves several key steps, including the following.

Petition filing and creditor notification

The initial step in probate involves filing a petition with the Florida probate court to open probate and appoint a personal representative (executor) to oversee estate administration. The appointed representative then notifies all known creditors of the deceased person’s death and the probate proceedings, providing them an opportunity to assert claims for any debts owed to them.

Estate inventory

After all the necessary notifications and filings, the personal representative conducts an inventory of the deceased person’s assets and determines their value. This inventory includes all assets owned by the deceased at the time of death.

Payment of claims

After the expiry of the statutory period for creditors to file claims, the personal representative reviews all submitted claims, verifies their validity and pays outstanding debts and expenses of the estate using available funds. Claims are paid in cash, and if the estate is not liquid enough to cover all debts, the personal representative may need to sell assets to generate funds.

Accounting and distribution of assets

The personal representative must file a comprehensive report (an accounting) with the court detailing all financial transactions of the estate. This includes income, expenses, any sales of estate assets, and payments made to creditors. Following court approval and after settling all debts, taxes, and expenses, the personal representative then distributes the remaining estate assets to beneficiaries according to the terms laid out in the will or as stipulated by state law, thereby bringing the probate process to a conclusion. 

Legal guidance helps ensure a smooth probate process by handling legal requirements, resolving disputes and complying with Florida probate laws to fulfill the deceased’s wishes.