Handling a Loved One's Estate in Florida: A Step-by-Step Guide
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The loss of a loved one is a difficult time, and managing their estate adds another layer of complexity. In Florida, probate is a legal process that ensures the deceased person’s assets are distributed correctly. It can seem intimidating, but understanding the steps involved can make it less overwhelming. For many, consulting a probate attorney in Miami or elsewhere in Florida is a wise decision. A recent report showed Florida has one of the highest probate filing rates in the US, highlighting the importance of this process.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal procedure for distributing a deceased person’s estate (assets) to their heirs and beneficiaries, while also settling any debts. Florida offers two main probate options: formal administration and summary administration.

  • Formal Administration: This is the standard procedure, typically required for estates exceeding $75,000 or if the deceased passed away more than two years ago.
  • Summary Administration: This is a simplified process used for estates valued under $75,000 or when the deceased has been gone for over two years.

Steps to Filing for Probate in Florida

  1. Locate the Will: If the deceased had a valid will, you’ll need to find it.
  2. Consider an Attorney: Especially for formal administration, consulting a probate attorney in Miami or your area is highly recommended. Their legal expertise can guide you through the process.
  3. File the Petition: A petition for probate needs to be submitted to the probate court in the county where the deceased resided.
  4. Notify Creditors: Florida law requires notifying creditors of the estate to allow them to file claims for any debts owed.
  5. Inventory the Estate’s Assets: Create a detailed list of all the deceased’s assets.
  6. Resolve Debts and Taxes: The estate is responsible for paying valid debts and any estate taxes that may be due.
  7. Distribute Remaining Assets: Once debts and taxes are settled, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries as outlined in the will or by state law if there is no will.

Benefits of a Probate Attorney

A probate attorney can offer valuable support throughout the process:

  • Legal Compliance: They ensure all legal requirements are met, and filings are submitted correctly.
  • Managing Taxes and Debts: Attorneys can help assess and settle the estate’s debts and tax obligations accurately.
  • Dispute Resolution: If disagreements arise among beneficiaries or creditors, an attorney can provide legal representation.
  • Efficient Handling: A probate attorney can expedite the process, minimizing the time and stress involved.

Probate FAQs in Florida

  • Probate Timeline: The timeframe can vary depending on the estate’s complexity, but it typically takes several months to a year.
  • Avoiding Probate: In Florida, estate planning tools like trusts, joint ownership with rights of survivorship, and designated beneficiaries can sometimes help avoid probate.
  • Probate Costs: Costs vary depending on the estate’s size and complexity. Consider attorney fees, court costs, and other administrative expenses.


Filing for probate in Florida involves following specific legal procedures and meeting deadlines. While it can be a complex process, understanding the basics and seeking help from a qualified probate attorney in Miami can significantly ease the burden. Remember, probate ensures the fair and legal distribution of the deceased’s estate, bringing peace of mind to everyone involved.

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