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When planning your estate, you may wish to help your executor and heirs avoid the probate process. Probate, the legal term for court supervision of estate asset distribution, can sometimes be expensive and time-consuming.

Explore the probate process in Florida and learn whether your estate will be subject to probate.

Understanding probate assets

Not all estate assets require probate. Types of property that Florida exempts from probate includes:

  • Real estate or assets owned jointly with a spouse
  • Homestead property owned jointly with a spouse or someone else
  • Retirement, life insurance policies and investment accounts with a named beneficiary
  • Bank accounts held jointly with right of survivorship

Reviewing types of probate

Depending on the value of probate assets, the estate may undergo either formal or summary probate administration. Florida limits summary administration to estates with a nonexempt value of less than $75,000. To qualify for this expedited process, the estate owner must have died within the past two years. The executor of a qualifying estate initiates this process by filing a Petition for Summary Administration. All beneficiaries and the deceased person’s surviving spouse must also sign this petition.

Estates with a probate value exceeding $75,000 must undergo formal administration. With this process, the executor petitions the court to become the deceased individual’s personal representative. The court will provide notice to all beneficiaries and potential creditors who have claims against the estate.

Next, the court provides permission for the personal representative to gather and value the estate assets. The judge will supervise the process of estate asset distribution and handle claims or disputes that arise.

Florida requires the executor to have attorney representation during all probate proceedings. On average, the process takes about six to 12 months in Florida, though disputes can prolong probate as the court gathers evidence and makes a determination about disagreements that arise.

Having a will is the first step to ensuring that the court will carry out your wishes. Without a will, the judge will distribute your assets in accordance with Florida intestate law.