Step-by-Step Do Your Own Probate in Florida
Prepare and File Petition in Probate Court
- Preparing and filing a petition is the first step to take under the provisions of the Florida Probate Code. The petition for probate can take two forms. First, there is a petition to probate a last will and testament. Second, there is a petition to open an estate in the absence of a last will and testament.
Under Florida law, the petition requests that the court oversee the probate of an estate--with or without a will. Additionally, the petition seeks an order from the court designating an individual to oversee the business of the estate. In the case of the probate of a will, that person is known as an executor. In the case of probate proceedings without a will, that person is called the administrator.
Florida's probate laws also require that the petition is verified. In other words, there needs to be a clause in the petition which indicates that everything contained in it is true to the knowledge of the individual signing the document. The petition needs to be signed in front of a notary public.
Once drafted and signed, the petition is then filed with the clerk of the court, probate division, in the county in which the individual who is the subject of the proposed probate proceedings died.
- Once the petition is filed, addressing a series of preliminary issues is the next step required by the Florida Probate Code. First and foremost is the scheduling of a hearing to admit a will into probate and to appoint an executor or in the alternative to open an estate (in the absence of a will) and to appoint an administrator.
Once the court date is scheduled, the Florida Probate Code requires that a series of notices be provided. Specific written notice must be mailed or otherwise presented to any individual who has a direct interest in the estate. This includes such individuals as immediate family members of the deceased and anyone named in the will. Additionally, a notice of the hearing must be published on three consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the area in which the court and case is located. (Such a notice is included in the legal notices section of the classified ads of the newspaper.)
At the hearing, the court officially will open the estate and appoint the executor or administrator. The executor or administrator will take charge of dealing with all matters pertaining to the estate from that moment forward under the supervision of the court.
Distribution of Assets
- Pursuant to the provisions of Florida law, the final stage of the probate process is the distribution of the assets of the estate. In the case of a will, the executor determines who is named in the will to receive which property or other assets from the deceased. If there is no will, the administrator uses the Florida Probate Code to determine who is entitled to the property of the deceased by operation of law.
A final hearing is scheduled before the court at which time the executor or administrator advises the court as to who is entitled to what property. The court reviews this information and approves or denies the proposed distribution. In the vast majority of cases, the proposed distribution is approved by the court.