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The Florida Bar FAQs Videos

Probate in Florida, Steve Deneke

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What is probate?
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Why is probate necessary?
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What are probate assets?
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Who is involved in probating an estate?
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How long does that take?
Index of Videos

Video Script

What is probate?
Probate is a court-supervised process for identifying and gathering the assets of a deceased person to pay debts and distribute assets to beneficiaries. In general, assets are used first to pay the cost of the probate proceeding and to pay outstanding debts. The remainder is distributed to beneficiaries.

Why is probate necessary?
Probate is necessary to pass ownership of assets to beneficiaries. If a valid will exists, it must be admitted to probate in the court. If there was not a will, probate is necessary to pass ownership of assets to those persons who are to receive them under Florida law.

What are probate assets?
Probate assets are the assets that were solely owned or that were owned with co-owners and which lacked a provision for automatic succession of ownership at death. A bank account or investment account in the sole name of a person who died is a probate asset. But a bank account or investment account owned by the person who died and payable on death to another person is not a probate asset.

Who is involved in probating an estate?
Who is involved in probating an estate depends on the facts of the case but any of the following may have a role to play:
  • The clerk of the circuit court in the county in which the decedent lived.
  • A circuit court judge.
  • A Personal representative or executor.
  • The attorney advising the personal representative; and
  • Those filing claims, such as credit card issuers and health care providers, and the Internal Revenue Service.

How long does probate take?
A simple probate estate will take about five or six months. Even the simplest of probate estates must be open for at least the three-month creditor claim period. Some probate administrations take longer, involving the sale of real estate and resolving disputed creditor claims and lawsuits. If the estate must file a federal estate tax return, the probate attorney will advise as to the time frames.

[Revised: 05-20-2015]