Written by Jeffrey Skatoff • June 23rd, 2013
As Florida probate lawyers, we are often asked how long probate takes in Florida. The answer depends on how complex the probate estate is, how large the estate is, how many beneficiaries there are, and whether there is any litigation regarding the estate.
Simple Estates - Time For Probate is Fast
In simple estates, probate can take as little as a few weeks to as long as a few months. If the estate qualifies for summary administration, the time for probate can be a few weeks. The estate can qualify for summary administration if the value of the estate is less than $75,000 and there are no unpaid creditors or if the deceased has been dead for more than two years. Not every estate that technically qualifies for summary administration should be handled through summary administration. In a summary administration, there is no personal representative appointed, which means that the estate cannot deal with creditors or taxiing authorities, and cannot handle complex or messy probate issues.
If the estate does not qualify for summary administration yet is fairly simple, the probate can be resolved in about five months. There is a 3 month creditor period during which the estate has to wait for creditor claims to be filed. the three-month creditor window starts from the first publication date of the notice to creditors. From the time that a client engaged the probate attorney to the time that the first notice of creditors is published can take about a month. (During that time period the paperwork to open the estate is prepared and filed, and a hearing before the probate judge must be had to open the estate.)
Assuming that the assets are easy to administer and that no accountings have to be prepared because the beneficiaries waive their rights to accountings, the estate should be able to be closed several weeks after the creditor period expires. If there are no creditors, the process to make final distribution to the beneficiaries and close the estate can begin. The time for this process should be in total about five months.
Estates of Medium Complexity - Time for Probate About One Year
In estates where accountings have to be prepared and filed, the time for probate can typically go about one year. Each beneficiary is entitled to an accounting, has an opportunity to object and a hearing can be held on the objections, if any. If there are no other complexities with the estate the one year target can usually be met.
Estates of More Complexity - Time for Probate is Long
There are many reasons why a probate estate could take years to close. Some of the most common reasons are as follows:
- The beneficiaries cannot be found
- The original will cannot be found
- Litigation over whether to admit the will to probate'
- Litigation over who should be the personal representative
- Litigation against creditor claims of the estate
- The estate itself is a plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit
- The assets of the estate cannot easily be collected
- The estate has to file litigation to collect estate assets
- Income tax issues
- If the estate is taxable, the time for filing the estate tax return and resolving any audit issues can take two or three years
- Litigation over accountings
If any of these issues are present, the time for probate can be measured in years. It is not unusual for an estate to take five years to resolve when multiple issues are present, especially when the beneficiaries litigate with one another or against the personal representative. If there is litigation and then an appeal is filed, add another year to the time for the probate to conclude.
Please contact Florida probate lawyer Jeffrey Skatoff, at (561) 842-4868.