Anyone yanked out of their daily routine and into a probate proceeding would most likely have one popping question on their mind.
How long does it take to complete probate in Florida?
An honest answer to this question would be – it depends. There are many factors that, when considered, can give a clear indication of the timeframe of a specific probate proceeding. Typically, the soonest that the proceedings can be completed is in 120 days from start to finish. However, depending on the circumstances, probate can last for years.
Typically, an attorney representing the decedent would inventory the decedent’s assets. If the decedent’s assets are appropriately titled, that would mean that the decedent was thorough in their estate planning and also left a will. If the decedent’s assets are not appropriately titled, a probate estate will need to be opened. The decedent may have owned assets jointly with another party; such assets will be subject to probate if the ownership documents did not have a succession clause or transfer of ownership.
After identifying any probate assets, the next step will be to determine the appropriate probate administration suited to the estate. The size of the estate will determine the type of probate process used. For instance, in Florida, if the value of the probate assets exceeds $75,000, the probate court will open a formal probate process to administer the assets properly. If the probate assets’ total value is less than $75,000, The court will decide whether a summary administration or a small estate affidavit can collect and distribute the assets.
Consulting an experienced Florida probate attorney is a sure-fire way of getting a correct time estimate for a specific probate proceeding. However, in the absence of an attorney, a few questions can explain what to expect as the process unfolds. This article explores these questions, and the answers you see will show you what to expect as you embark on the probate process.
What is the size of the estate?
In general, small estates go through a more straightforward and uncomplicated settlement process than large estates. Small estates are settled with a Summary probate process, which usually takes 3-4 months. In contrast, larger estates are settled with the formal probate, which lasts for about 9-12 months, depending on a few factors. An estate is classified as large if its overall value exceeds $75,000 and small if below $75,000.
Small estates qualified for summary probate usually don’t have creditors or anyone asking where the money is going. In the absence of such loose ends, estate settlement would be a breeze. However, larger estates, which are more likely to have complex issues, are settled longer in a longer time frame.
Put simply, small estates may take less time to settle than do large estates.
Did the decedent have a valid will?
The presence of a valid will in an estate being probated is guaranteed to speed up the process. The Will would name an executor to take control of the estate, beneficiaries, and heirs to inherit parts of the estate.
If the decedent didn’t leave a will, the court would take control of the estate and appoint a person to act as the estate’s representative. The court will apply the rules of intestacy, and these rules are sure to prolong steps that would have been simpler if a Will was admitted to probate.
Is anyone contesting the Will?
If a valid will is present, probate would be shorter. But what happens when an interested party is contesting the validity of the Will? Lengthy court trials would be required to resolve these issues. The contestor could believe that the Will is fraudulent or that the decedent was under duress or lacked the mental capacity to create a will.
Whatever the bone of contention, a will contest can take approximately 1 to 2 years, especially if the parties involved are unwilling to settle the case out of court. It’s been two decades since the famous musician Jimi Hendrix passed on; his family is still embroiled in legal battles over the settlement of his enormous estate.
Does the decedent have unpaid taxes or debt?
In settling an estate, the estate representative will notify creditors of the death. The creditors will be issued a notice and given a deadline to file their claim, and this deadline is usually about three months. Taxes have to be paid and debts settled before any transfers to beneficiaries can be initiated.
Estates with unpaid tax and multiple creditors will generally have a prolonged probate process. The estate must settle all creditor claims before assets can be distributed to beneficiaries and the estate closed.
Are the beneficiaries in agreement?
If there is some disagreement among beneficiaries, this will slow down the probate process. The executor might be under scrutiny for every action they take. Some beneficiaries may even hire their attorneys to “protect their interest” in the estate.
If this becomes the case, then be sure that the disagreement will prolong the probate process because beneficiaries will eventually find faults in the proceeding. In some cases, heirs try to reach a mutually beneficial agreement among themselves. However, these are rare cases.
In conclusion, if you are involved in a probate proceeding, explore more details of these questions. Read the Ultimate Guide to probate in Florida, and finally, Seek the Probate attorney’s counsel because every estate has nuances that only an experienced attorney can spot. With the right attorney, you have multiple options on how you can scale through any presented hoops.