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A couple learning about the Probate Process in Florida and why to avoid it

Is Probate Bad? Understanding the Probate Process in Florida

Probate is a legal procedure overseen by a probate judge that involves the administration of an estate, whether large or small. This process can be intricate and multifaceted, often requiring the expertise of a knowledgeable Florida probate lawyer. Compared to other states, Florida is notorious for having a longer and more costly probate process.  And the primary problems with probate, and why Legacy Planning Law Group is committed to helping people plan to avoid it, are that it’s slow, costly, public, and messy.   To ensure that their family is not stuck in the probate court system, work with a Florida probate attorney like Bill O’Leary to create a private solution tailored to your unique situation and estate.

In his video, “Florida Probate Process Explained,” Attorney Bill O’Leary explains how the probate process works in Florida outlining:

• The timeline you can expect
• The different stages of probate
• The different paths probate can go down

What Are the Stages of Probate in Florida?

  1. Opening the Estate: This initial phase involves court filings and the appointment of a personal representative, formerly known as the executor. The court issues ‘letters of administration,’ empowering the personal representative to act on behalf of the estate.
  2. Administering the Estate: The personal representative’s duties include identifying and marshaling assets, notifying heirs and beneficiaries, and addressing creditor claims. This stage is crucial in ensuring that all valid debts and obligations of the estate are settled.
  3. Closing the Estate: The final stage involves filing a petition to close the estate and obtaining a court order of discharge. This relieves the personal representative of their duties and liabilities associated with the estate.

The Nine Steps of Florida Probate

  1. Consult a Florida Probate Attorney: Engaging with a lawyer experienced with the probate law is the first step. They will guide you through the process, starting with obtaining a death certificate, which the family or a representative must file with the court, and determining if a will exists. Read more in our article,  Is An Attorney Required For Probate In Florida?
  2. Opening the Estate: This involves the necessary court filings to appoint a personal representative, or PR, and notify heirs and beneficiaries.
  3. Identifying Creditors: Creditors fall into three categories: known, reasonably ascertainable, and unknown. Each category requires specific notification procedures according to Florida law.
  4. Conducting an Asset Inventory: Identifying and valuing the assets of the estate is a critical step.
  5. Addressing Creditor Claims: This involves paying valid creditor claims, which may require liquidating assets if necessary.
  6. Paying Taxes: Overlooked often, this step involves settling any income or estate taxes due.
  7. Preparing an Accounting: This shows how estate funds were used and can be waived if all beneficiaries agree.
  8. Making Final Distributions: This includes distributing assets to heirs or into trusts as stipulated in the will.
  9. Closing the Estate: Obtaining a court order of discharge releases the personal representative from their duties.

How Can I Avoid Probate?

While the legal process of probate can be a lengthy, costly, and public, proper estate planning can streamline or even bypass it. Tools like living trusts offer a smoother, more private alternative to probate, granting more control and flexibility in managing your estate.

A revocable living trust (RLT) is often the preferred method for avoiding probate. It is a legal document that allows you to establish a separate entity (the trust) to “hold” legal title to your assets while you are alive and to name trustees to manage those assets according to the trust terms. Typically, you serve as the trustee while you are alive, managing your assets for your benefit. You don’t give up any control because the trust is revocable. Upon your disability or death, the trust terms appoint your successor trustee, who then continues to manage — or distribute — the assets held in trust.

A properly drafted Florida trust can accomplish many goals, including guardianship needs if you become incapacitated and helping family members avoid probate after you pass away. A revocable living trust in Florida can also protect your children’s inheritance from being mismanaged or affected by divorce or liability lawsuits from things like car accidents.

Why Avoid Probate?

  1. Time: Probate can be lengthy, often taking 9 to 15 months or longer, especially if the estate includes complex assets.
  2. Cost: Probate can be expensive, with legal fees based on the estate’s value.
  3. Lack of Privacy: Probate is a public process, potentially exposing your estate details to public scrutiny.
  4. Lack of Control: The probate process can limit the executor’s ability to manage estate assets efficiently.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Florida Probate Process:

  1. How long does a probate case take in Florida?
    The average length of a Florida probate is about 9 to 15 months; however, cases can often end up lasting two or more years.
  2. How does the probate lawyer get paid?
    The Florida probate lawyer typically will charge a fee between three and five percent of the value of the probate assets.
  3. What are other ways to avoid probate?
    Additional estate planning methods that you can use to secure your assets while bypassing probate include transfer-upon-death accounts, gifting, and joint ownership. However, as each of these techniques involve working with assets individually, using a trust through a comprehensive estate plan designed with a Florida probate attorney is the best way to universally protect all property and assets in your estate and ensure that they pass to your intended heirs privately.


Navigating the Florida probate process can be daunting, but with the right guidance, it can be managed effectively. As a Florida probate law firm, Legacy Planning Law Group in Jacksonville is here to assist you every step of the way, ensuring that your or your loved one’s estate is handled with the care and diligence it deserves. Remember, proactive estate planning can greatly simplify this process, providing peace of mind for you and your family. For more information or assistance, schedule a free discovery call with our team.

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