Guidebook: Navigating Florida Probate

Definitions and Glossery of Terms:

Probate: After a person passes away, their estate goes through a legal process known as probate. It’s a court-supervised procedure to identify the deceased person’s assets, pay their debts, and distribute the remaining assets to beneficiaries.

Will: A legal document specifying how a person’s assets should be distributed upon their death. It names beneficiaries and outlines their entitlements.

Beneficiary: An individual named in the will to inherit specific property, assets, or benefits from the deceased person’s estate.

Intestate Succession: In cases where a person dies without a valid will (intestate), laws of intestate succession determine how the estate is distributed among heirs designated by law.

Formal Administration: The process for probating an estate used when a summary administration is not suitable. It’s appropriate for larger estates or those with complex issues, involving more court oversight and a court-appointed personal representative.

Summary Administration: A faster and more streamlined probate process suitable for smaller estates or simpler situations. It involves less court involvement and is subject to specific limitations outlined in Florida Statute 735.201.

Assets: What the decedent owned at the time of their death, not automatically passing to someone else. It includes bank accounts, insurance policies, retirement accounts, or real estate.

Estate: The total value of all assets and debts of the deceased person.

Personal Representative: Also called an Executor, the person appointed by the decedent or the court with legal authority to manage the estate, pay debts, and distribute assets.

Florida Probate Basics

What Is the Process Like?
  1. Filing the Paperwork: Initiate probate by filing the necessary paperwork with the Clerk of Court in the county where the deceased person lived. Pay the required filing fee.
  2. Assigning File Number: The Clerk assigns a file number, maintaining a record of all filed papers during the estate administration.
  1. Resolution and Distribution: After completing required documents and steps, the court enters an order resolving issues and distributing assets.
  2. Dependent on Probate Type: The specific documents and steps vary based on the type of probate. Refer to resources below for guides and checklists.
What Are the Rules?

1. Florida Probate Code: The laws applicable are outlined in the Florida Probate Code (Chapters 731-735 of Florida Statutes).

2. Court Rules: Additional court rules can be found here.


Statutes for Small Estates or Simplified Proceedings
  1. Payment to Successor Without Court Proceedings: Review Florida Statute 735.303 for a process to request funds from a deceased person’s account if it’s less than the specified limit.
  2. Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration: Understand the process outlined in Florida Statute 735.301. This process is not court-supervised and applicable in limited scenarios.
Forms, Guides, Checklists
  1. Florida Bar Consumer Pamphlet: Probate in Florida – A comprehensive guide.
  2. Florida Courts Self-Help Probate Resources: Florida Courts-Probate. Self-help resources and forms provided by the Florida Courts for probate cases
  3. Clerk of Court Forms: Check the website of the Clerk of Court in the county where the deceased person lived. For example, in Citrus County, information and forms are available here.  
  4. Checklist for Opening an Estate Summary Administration: Eleventh Circuit checklist for Testate and Intestate.
Remember to verify the information’s current status, as websites and statutes may be updated.