General timeline of probate
Some of these tasks are undertaken by the attorney, particularly and court filings, and some are undertaken by the personal representative.
I. Opening Phase
a. Obtain 4 long form and 4 short form death certificates.
b. File will and/or personal property memorandum with the clerk of court within 10 days of death.
c. Prepare and file petition for administration, certified copy of short form death certificate, proposed order admitting will to probate and appointing personal representation (“PR”), proposed letters of administration, waivers of service of notice of administration and consents to probate from interested parties, oath of PR for each PR and acceptance of resident agent, and notice of confidential information with the Court.
d. Typically, within 4 weeks, the court will issue letters of administration.
e. Send out notice of administration, if necessary, to interested parties.
II. Inventory and Notice Phase
a. Secure decedent’s property and prepare inventory of all property to be filed with the Court within 60 days of receipt of lettersof administration.
b. Conduct a diligent search for all of the decedent’s assets, including digital assets, and creditors. Secure court orders if necessary.
c. Open estate bank account and transfer property into the name of the estate. Obtain EIN from the IRS and File IRS Form 56.
d. Pay for maintenance of property as necessary, including property taxes, mortgage payments, HOA payments, insurance premiums, and the like. File proof of claim for these payments with the Court. Secure insurance if necessary.
e. Send formal legal notice to reasonably ascertainable creditors.
f. Publish legal notice in the newspaper for two consecutive weeks to alert unknown creditors. Creditors have 3 months from the date of first publication to come forward or, if a known creditor, 30 days from notice.
g. File proof of publication to creditors with the court within 45 days of first publication.
h. Evaluate any creditor claims for validity and object if necessary.
III. Payment and Distribution Phase
a. File verification that diligent search for creditors was made with the court within 4 months of first publication to creditors.
b. Once 5 months from first publication to creditors has expired, pay creditors with valid claims in order of priority set forth in Fla. Stat. 733.707 and obtain satisfaction and release of claim.
c. If required, file estate tax return within 9 months from decedent’s death.
d. File estate income tax returns if necessary.
e. After creditors are paid, make distributions to beneficiaries consistent with the terms of the will or Florida law.
IV. Closing Phase
a. Prepare a final accounting and petition for discharge to be filed with the Court.
b. Obtain receipts, waivers, consents, and declarations from beneficiaries as appropriate for distributions already made.
c. Prepare plan for final distribution, including any prior distributions made, all remaining property on hand, the plan for distribution, and funds kept on hand to pay final expenditures.
d. The beneficiaries can waive the final accounting and consent to personal representative’s discharge in order to significantly increase the speed of the process and reduce expenses. They can also waive the inclusion of plan of distribution, objections, manner of determining compensation, and acknowledge receipt of their interest in the estate to expedite the process.
e. Even if beneficiaries waive the final accounting, it is a good idea to provide them with an informal accounting and a receipt and release agreement, releasing the personal representative form any further liability.
As you can see, the overall process should take around 10-12 months. However, a number of factors can impact how long probate will take. It could be slightly shorter, or much longer than suggested in this timeline. Please note, this timeline is not a comprehensive explanation of every step that must be taken. It is a general guideline of some of the more significant activities that will be undertaken during estate administration.