Many people think they can avoid the probate of an estate if their deceased loved one had a Last Will and Testament. This is a common misconception. A will is a set of directions by the deceased on how they want their estate to be distributed. Probate is the legal processes where a deceased person’s affairs are managed in an organized manner to ensure that all legitimate debts are paid, burial expenses are taken care of, and the remaining assets are transferred to the beneficiaries according to the will or via intestacy.
The average probate takes anywhere from six months to a year for a formal administration and four to six weeks for a summary administration. The type of administration depends on the value of the estate. In almost all cases, in the state of Florida, you will need an attorney to probate an estate. The few instances where an attorney is not required is when the estate is very small (also known as “disposition without administration”) and the executor or personal representative is the only beneficiary. However, the probate process is complex and contains many legal pitfalls. It is always advisable to hire an experienced estate attorney to handle the nuances of the probate process, including claiming homestead exemptions, exempt property, and a spouse’s elective share.