When is a Will Filed in Probate Court?
After the death of a loved one, there are certain steps that need to be taken in regard to the person’s will to make sure it is probated and that the instructions are carried out. The quicker this is done, the quicker the assets in the will can be distributed.
In the state of Florida, an original copy of the will must be filed with the court clerk within 10 days of the executor knowing of the person’s death. Once that happens, the probate process can begin.
First, it is important to know what the probate process is. After someone passes away, their estate enters probate, which is the court-supervised process in which the deceased’s assets are distributed to bill collectors, taxes, and inheritors. While it’s court-supervised, the court usually will not get too involved, unless there is fighting among family over the estate, or creditors have issues. Florida is one of 16 states who have adopted the Uniform Probate Code (UPC) making the probate process somewhat easier than other states. The UPC is a way to streamline the process, make it simpler, and give executors more flexibility. Probate is essentially the court accepting the will and putting it into effect.
In a UPC state like Florida, there are three types of probate: Informal, unsupervised formal, and supervised formal.
The executor of the will must be able to find the will. Some people keep them in a safe, while others keep the original copy with their estate planning attorney. It may be worth finding out where the will is before a person passes away, if possible. If there are several wills, the latest one is the one that is valid and should be filed. If there is an amendment to a will, this must be filed with it.
When the will is filed with the court, it is filed with a petition asking the court to approve and accept the will, thereby putting it into effect. The executor of the will is responsible for moving it through the probate process, as well as managing and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries.
Once filed, the court inspects the will in order to make sure it is valid. From there, the heirs and beneficiaries of the will are legally notified, and given the opportunity to contest the will, if they believe it is invalid. Then an inventory of the estate is taken, assets are appraised, and all assets and debts of the deceased are reported to the court. A value is placed on the estate, creditors are notified of the probate process in order to file a claim, and a bank account is established for the estate.
Next, outstanding bills and debts are paid. Taxes, including estate and income taxes, are also paid. Finally, another petition is filed and the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will.
How quickly the process moves along depends on attention to detail and following through with all of the steps. The time it takes to probate the will also depend on the size and value of the estate and whether the will is being contested. Creditors and debtors may also slow down the process. Smaller estates with few assets and debts may move more quickly. In most cases, a will is probated and assets distributed within eight to twelve months from the time the will is filed with the court. Beneficiaries of a will are paid last, meaning the entire estate needs to be settled first. Despite it seeming like a long process, it can be moved along with attention to detail.
Contact The Mattar Firm
At The Mattar Firm, our dedicated probate lawyers can help guide you through the probate process. Call us today at 239-222-2222 or 844-444-4444 to get started.