What Does the Full Florida Probate Process Look Like?

florida probate process

When someone passes away, probate is the legal process for administering their estate. Its role is to identify assets, pay outstanding debts, and distribute inheritance to the beneficiaries.

In Florida, probate takes place through the county’s circuit court under the supervision of a probate judge. The court appoints a Personal Representative (also called an executor) who guides the process forward.

At Vollrath Law, we guide personal representatives through probate with compassion and experience. We aim to empower you with the knowledge you need to make this difficult process as smooth as possible. Here is what you can expect.

Who is Involved in the Probate Process?

A Personal Representative will likely interact with various entities throughout probate administration. Understanding their roles will prepare you for what’s ahead.

The Personal Representative

As mentioned, the Personal Representative (or executor) is responsible for guiding the probate process. This involves tasks like:

  • Notifying creditors
  • Creating an estate inventory and accounting
  • Distributing assets


Beneficiaries are those inheriting assets from the estate. As a Personal Representative, it’s your duty to keep beneficiaries informed of the proceedings.

Unfortunately, disputes can arise occasionally, especially if beneficiaries believe that assets have been distributed unfairly. At Vollrath Law, we aid in mediating family disagreements to keep the probate process on track.

Probate Judges & Courts

Florida probate judges are elected and appointed officials who oversee probate cases in their respective counties. Their role includes entering orders and ruling on disputes raised by beneficiaries, creditors, or other parties.

Judges can also remove negligent personal representatives failing to fulfill duties.


It’s common for the deceased to have outstanding debts, whether it’s mortgage payments, auto loans, or credit card balances. Creditors can make claims against the estate for repayment.

As part of the required creditor notification process, Vollrath Law negotiates firmly but fairly with all parties to settle legitimate claims so you can move forward.

Step-By-Step Florida Probate Process

Now that you understand the key players, let’s explore the step-by-step probate procedure in Florida:

Filing the Petition

The first step is filing a Petition for administration with the county’s circuit court.

This petition formally commences probate and includes important information like the proposed personal representative and estate valuation.

Appointing the Personal Representative

Next, the probate judge reviews the petition and officially appoints the designated personal representative if they meet statutory qualifications. The court also issues Letters of Administration authorizing the personal representative to act.

Notifying Creditors

The personal representative must provide legal notice to the deceased’s known creditors. This notice informs creditors of their right to make financial claims against the estate within a specified timeframe.

Creating the Inventory

Here, the personal representative categorizes the estate’s assets and debts into an inventory list. This inventory must be filed with the probate court. Vollrath Law assists personal representatives with properly creating and filing the Inventory.

Paying Claims & Taxes

The Personal Representative utilizes any estate assets to first pay any creditor claims that are ruled valid by the probate judge, as well as pay any final taxes.

Distributing the Assets

Finally, when debts, taxes, and expenses have been settled, the Personal Representative distributes the remaining assets to beneficiaries according to the instructions in the deceased’s will. For competent guidance on this complex stage, probate attorneys like those at Vollrath Law are highly recommended.

Roadblocks That Can Prolong Probate

In many cases, the probate process flows relatively smoothly. However, unexpected issues can prolong the process, such as:

  • Contested Wills: Family members may dispute the Will’s validity, stalling asset distribution.
  • Creditor Claims: If numerous creditors make financial claims, satisfying debts can be time-consuming, especially if assets are insufficient. Prioritizing claims by validity is crucial.
  • Complex Asset Structures: Untangling complicated assets like family businesses into inventory can add delays. Selling certain assets may become necessary.
  • Family Disagreements: Infighting over the estate’s handling often requires judge intervention. We defuse tensions through diplomacy first before involving the courts.

Thankfully, proper advanced planning can allow a family to avoid probate altogether in many cases. For example, assets can be transferred immediately to beneficiaries by using tools like revocable trusts or beneficiary arrangements.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does probate take in Florida?

Probate in Florida typically takes 9 to 12 months to fully administer, though simple estates can sometimes finish probate more quickly. Factors that can lengthen probate include estate complexity, creditor disputes, and beneficiary cooperation. Completing certain steps expediently, like notifying creditors and creating an estate inventory, helps shorten probate.

Does all property have to go through probate in Florida?

No, some property is exempt from the Florida probate process, such as life insurance proceeds and qualified retirement accounts with named beneficiaries or property held jointly with the right of survivorship. Also, assets placed in certain properly executed trusts can avoid probate.

What happens if you die without a will in Florida?

In Florida, dying without a will means dying intestate. Assets will then get distributed according to Florida’s intestacy laws based on the deceased’s familial relationships. A personal representative will still need to be appointed by the probate court to oversee the distribution process, which can result in higher administrative costs.

Partnering With an Oviedo Florida Probate Attorney

Despite the roadblocks discussed, many families can navigate probate smoothly with an attorney’s help. For complex cases, though, seeking counsel can tremendously ease the burden, especially in the following situations:

  • Your estate includes substantial or unique assets requiring valuation assistance.
  • Creditors bring forth numerous or seemingly illegitimate claims needing dispute.
  • Concerns exist over someone contesting the will or trust.
  • You desire deeply personalized guidance throughout the process.

At Vollrath Law, our unwavering commitment is empowering families through turbulent times with compassion and practical legal guidance. Contact us today to discuss your specific situation. Our team is here to counsel you through each step of the journey so you can find closure.

Author Bio

Stephanie Vollrath is an Owner and Partner of Vollrath Law, a Florida estate planning law firm she founded in 2013. With more than seven years of experience in investments and financial advising and 13 years practicing law in Florida, she represented clients in a wide range of estate planning cases. Her practice areas include wills, trusts, guardianship, probate, and other estate planning matters.

Stephanie received her Juris Doctor from the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law and is a member of the Florida Bar and the Seminole County Bar Association.

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