Many people come to their estate planning attorney and say that one of their goals is avoiding probate because they believe that it takes a long time. They are worried that the probate process will tie up their property for years. However, this fear may be unfounded because it does not usually take years to settle a probate administration.
So, How Long Does Probate Take?
Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule. It depends on a lot of different factors. Some probate administrations take longer than others, but we are talking in terms of months and not years. Below are some estimated timelines for probate administrations.
There are different types of probate administrations in Florida. A summary administration is an abbreviated proceeding which can be filed if the probate estate is less than $75,000 (not including homestead real property). Depending on the judge’s calendar, it may only take eight weeks to receive an order for a summary probate administration. If a notice to creditors is filed reducing the claim period from two years to three months, the estate must remain open for at least three months.
If the probate estate is larger than $75,000 (not including homestead real property) a formal probate administration is required. It is reasonable to expect that a simple formal probate estate will take about 9 months to close.
In general, if the probate estate is less than $5,430,000 and does not have to file a federal estate tax return, the probate estate should be closed within 12 months after the probate court appoints the personal representative.
If the probate estate is more than $5,430,000 and is required to file a federal estate tax return, the return is due 9 months after the date of the decedent’s death, and the documents to close the probate administration are due 12 months after the federal estate tax return is due.
Issues That Can Extend the Probate Process
The above describes general timelines to settle a probate estate when there are no problems. Obviously, if there are issues, it could take longer to resolve.
Examples of issues that could extend the probate process:
- The beneficiaries have a copy of the last will and testament but the original document cannot be found.
- Someone contests the will.
- If there are numerous claims filed against the estate due to unpaid bills of the decedent.
- All funeral bills and unpaid taxes must be paid prior to closing the probate file.
- The personal representative cannot easily find all of the assets.
- If there are any known legitimate creditors, a Statement Regarding Creditors must be filed and a timeline provided for payment to that creditor.
- Real property is located in another state so a second probate case must be opened in that state.
- The personal representative cannot find all of the beneficiaries.
- A beneficiary refuses to sign a Joinder, Waiver and Consent so that the proceeding can move forward smoothly.
- There is a separate ligation case involving the probate estate. This may happen if the decedent was killed as a result of a car accident, medical malpractice, or other personal injury. The probate court usually will not close the probate until the litigation case is complete or settled because the personal representative is the only person with the authority to sign documents on behalf of the probate estate.
Generally speaking, most probate administrations are easy to complete when you retain an experienced probate attorney who is aware of the probate rules and strictly adheres to them. Probate of an estate is really nothing to fear.
As you can see, how long probate takes depends on a variety of factors, but we can easily sift through the details for you. This article is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. The facts of your situation are unique and if you need to probate a will, you can talk to an experienced Florida probate attorney at our office. Call us at 813-852-6500 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.