If an individual dies in Florida owning property, the Probate Court administers any property not titled in joint names, with rights of survivorship, nor titled in the name of a Trust. This type of procedure is known as probate administration. The process is somewhat similar if the person dies with a will (“testate”) or without a will (“intestate”).

Do I Need To Consult An Attorney?

In almost all cases, you will require the services of a Florida probate attorney. Except in the cases of “disposition without administration”, Florida law requires an attorney to represent the Personal Representative of the Estate. Even in those cases where an attorney to represent the Personal Representative is not sought nor desired, formal administration of an Estate has many technical rules and pitfalls that a non-lawyer may find difficult to navigate.  Moreover, the courts are not trained nor staffed to offer legal assistance in conjunction with the administration of an Estate.

Process of Probate Administration

You should provide the following documents to your attorney: 

  • The decedent’s original will, if one exists 
  • An original short-form death certificate (without cause of death)
  • A general summary and approximate valuation of the decedent’s property
  • The beneficiaries’ or heirs’ names and addresses, as well as any minors’ date of birth
  • The name and address of the personal representative named in the will, and where one is not named the individual chosen by a plurality of the beneficiaries.
  • The names and addresses of the deceased person’s identified creditors.
  • Funds for the requested initial retainer and cost deposit.

Your lawyer will draft and file a petition for administration with the Probate Court, along with the initial will (if one exists) and the death certificate. The court would then normally grant letters of administration, giving you the authority to work on behalf of the estate as the Personal Representative. After that, you can open a bank account under the Estate’s name, and can sell or transfer some real or personal property upon Court approval unless that power is specifically granted by the will and/or Florida law.

You must keep track of all estate properties and assign appropriate values to each. You must also make and retain an accurate record of all payments to creditors, fees, expenditures, as well as distributions to beneficiaries and heirs of the Estate. Some of the afore-described distributions and payments require Court approval before the same can be made.  Your attorneys will submit a petition for discharge once the estate administration is completed, and the Court will in due course grant an order officially discharging you as Personal Representative of the Estate.

How Long Does it take?

The administration of an Estate requires between six months to a year to complete. However, if you have a complex or taxable estate, then the process will take longer to resolve and address all the complexities of the Estate.