As Florida lawyers, we are often asked how long a case or proceeding will take - start to finish. The answer is not easy.
This post is meant to address the common question, "How long does it take to probate in Florida?".
If everything runs smoothly, it takes 4 months.
The probate process is basically a three part process: assets are located, creditors are paid, and the beneficiaries recieve what is left (distribution).
If the decedent was organized, then locating assets can be simple and take days or a few weeks. If the decedent had a lot of assets and did not leave them organized, then locating the assets can take longer. If probate takes longer than 4 months, it’s usually because of the amount or complexity of assets.
The next part is paying the creditors. However before paying them, the creditors have to be found. This is done by publishing a notice to creditors in the legal newspaper and giving them 3 months to file a claim. In addition, a copy of the notice to creditors is sent to every possible person who might be a creditor. At the end of the 3 month creditor claims period, the creditors are known and paid, if all goes smoothly. If this takes longer than 3 months, then it’s usually due to a disputed claim or a problem with taxes.
Finally, after the 3 month creditor claims period expires and the creditors are paid, the remaining estate can be distributed to beneficiaries. If it takes longer, then it is usually because there is a will contest or other dispute.
So, the answer is simple (or it it), a Florida probate can be completed in just 4 months from start to finish if all goes smoothly. The problem is that things don’t always go smoothly. A proper estate plan (wills & trusts) can help avoid future problems.