Estate laws in Florida provide for estates to go through regular probate, or be settled without probate under certain conditions, explains Nolo. If the deceased left a will, whoever is in possession of the will has 10 days to file it with the local circuit court. The court then determines if the will is valid and if probate is necessary.
To avoid probate, a Florida estate must be placed in a living trust, left to a beneficiary or held in joint tenancy, according to Nolo. For example, life insurance proceeds left to a beneficiary or a home or bank account owned by more than one person can all avoid probate. In addition, Florida allows an estate to take a shortcut around probate known as disposition without administration when the deceased owned no real estate and none of the estate's assets have creditor's claims against them. In addition, the estate must be fairly small.
When Florida's laws require an estate to go through formal probate, the executor of the will is typically named as the estate's representative, and heirs and other beneficiaries are given a chance to object to the planned distribution of the estate, notes Nolo. The probate court must declare a will to be valid, which most often occurs when witnesses testify to have seen the deceased sign the will or if the will is notarized. The estate's representative then inventories the estate's assets, pays all debts and taxes, then distributes the remainder according to the will. The court closes probate after it is assured everything has been done correctly, which typically takes six months to a year.