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How long does the probate process take in Florida?

After a person in Florida passes away, there are certain legalities that must be met. Unless a person has a trust, his or her property will have to go through the probate process. This is true if a person had a will, or if he or she died without a will (known as intestacy.) Probate is the process by which, through the court system, the deceased's assets are identified and collected. The deceased's remaining debts are paid out of the funds of the deceased's estate, and the remaining assets are then distributed to the deceased's heirs.

How much time the probate process will take depends on the facts of the case. For example, if there is real estate that needs to be sold before the estate can be settled, this may take time. Moreover, if a creditor files a claim that is in dispute or if there is a dispute over the deceased's will, these issues may also take time to resolve. In addition, a probate estate must remain open for a minimum of the three-month timespan given for creditor claims. Therefore, even a simple estate may take as many as six months to complete.

If a federal estate tax return is not necessary, the final accounting needed before the probate estate can be closed is due within one year after the personal representative is issued the Letters of Administration by the court. It is possible to get an extension on this one-year time period.

If it is necessary to file a federal estate tax return, this must be done within nine months following the death of the decedent. If necessary, a six-month extension of this deadline can be sought. After that, the final accounting is due within one year following the due date of the tax return. An extension of this one-year deadline can be sought.

For those unfamiliar with the probate process, all of these due dates may seem complex. Therefore, it may help to consult an attorney to ensure all paperwork is completed properly and filed by the appropriate deadlines.

Source: The Florida Bar, "Probate in Florida Pamphlet," accessed Feb. 13, 2017

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