First – let us say that probate does NOT have to take years and years to complete. In fact, it can be simple and quick. If you have started researching and asking around about probate, you have likely heard and read horror stories about how long probate takes. And certainly, it can take longer than average when siblings are fighting, a piece of property will not sell or there are three different Last Will and Testaments, and a judge has to determine which one is valid. If one of these or a similar example describes your situation, then yes, the probate could take longer than average. However, those tend to be the exception. So how long does the “average” probate take? In general, most probates that The Probate Law Firm handles, finish within 2 and 6 months of being started – not years. This range depends primarily on one factor: when the person died and when the probate is opened. Specifically, it depends on if the probate is opened within two years of the person’s death or if the probate is opened two years after they died.

Very briefly, here is why it matters if the probate is opened within 2-years or after 2-years of the person’s death: if the person died less than 2-years ago, Florida law requires that a Notice to Creditors be filed in the probate case after the Personal Representative has been appointed. A Notice to Creditors is a document, which is published in a local newspaper and basically shows that a probate has been opened and that anybody who believes that the person who just died owes them money, needs to file a claim in the probate case. The most common creditors are hospitals and credit card companies. 

Once the Notice to Creditors is filed, anyone who believes they are owed money has 90-days to file the proper documents in the probate case. After that 90-day window is up, creditors are not allowed to make any claim against the estate. Even if they are actually owed money, if they don’t file their claim during those 90-days, they are out of luck.

So, why is this important? Almost without exception, you cannot sell or purchase a property that is in probate during that 90-day period. The seller or the buyer will have to wait until those three months are up before the property in probate can be bought or sold. There may be some exceptions, but this is pretty much the norm. Also, any money that is a part of the estate cannot be distributed until that 90-day period has expired. Basically, other than locating assets and negotiating with creditors (which we as the attorney do), there is little that can be done during those 90-days. Therefore, it is very important that the Personal Representative be appointed quickly and that the Notice to Creditors be filed so that the 90-day waiting period can begin.

Below are two separate timelines: the first timeline is for a probate that is opened with the courts 2-years after the person has died. Example: the probate was opened in January 2019 and the person died in November 2015. The second timeline is for a probate that is opened with the courts within 2-years of the person’s death. Example: the probate was opened in January 2019 and the person died in September 2018. 

LENGTH OF PROBATE WHEN THE CASE 

IS FILED 2-YEARS AFTER THE PERSON DIED

*Note – this is from when the probate case is actually opened, and a case number is assigned.

Month 1 (Approximately 20-45 Days)

It takes about 20-45 days from the date the probate is filed with the court and a case number is assigned for the judge to sign a piece of paper called an “Order Appointing Personal Representative.” This is one of the most important documents in the entire probate process. This document states who the Personal Representative of the probate is and allows this person to do necessary tasks such as getting bank statements, listing property for sale and communicating directly with insurance and financial institutions. In fact, very little can be done until the judge has signed this document.

Month 2 (Approximately 30-60 Days)

Ideally, the surviving family and friends know where most of the assets are, such as the bank accounts or home, and have started gathering that information by this time. If they have not, now the Personal Representative can do that, along with his or her attorney. Also, now that a Personal Representative has been appointed, a bank will release checks to the estate and communicate with the Personal Representative and their attorney. For any realtors, this is the time when they can list a property in probate for sale and go under contract. The Personal Representative is able to sign contracts and any closing documents to effectuate the sale of the property.

Month 3 (Approximately 60-100 Days)

After the Personal Representative has located all of the assets and the accounts have been closed and any real estate has been sold, the attorney will ask the judge to release any money the estate has to the beneficiaries. Once the money has been paid to the beneficiaries, the court will discharge the Personal Representative of their duties and the probate will be closed.

**This timeline is based on The Probate Law Firm’s experience of handling hundreds of probate matters. However, situations can and do arise that will cause the probate to last longer (or shorter). 

***If you need assistance with a probate matter in the State of Florida, please contact The Probate Law Firm at 305-456-3255 or send us an email at [email protected]. We offer complimentary, telephonic consultations and handle probate administration and litigation matters in all 67 counties of Florida. 

LENGTH OF PROBATE WHEN THE CASE IS FILED 

WITHIN 2-YEARS OF WHEN THE PERSON DIED

*Note – this is from when the probate case is actually opened, and a case number is assigned.

Month 1 (Approximately 20-45 Days)

It takes about 20-45 days from the date the probate is filed with the court and a case number is assigned for the judge to sign a piece of paper called an “Order Appointing Personal Representative.” This is one of the most important documents in the entire probate process. This document states who the Personal Representative of the probate is and allows this person to do necessary tasks such as getting bank statements, listing property for sale and communicating directly with insurance and financial institutions. In fact, very little can be done until the judge has signed this document.

Month 2 (Approximately 30-60 Days)

The Notice to Creditors is filed which starts the mandatory 90-day period for any creditors to file a claim against the estate. It is a good idea for the Personal Representative to locate all assets at this point if they have not done so already. Generally, we will close all bank accounts, fill out the necessary paperwork to claim any insurance policies and try and gather all of the liquid (money) assets and place them in a restricted bank account until the end of the probate. Also, we will begin negotiating with creditors if any make a claim against the estate and ask the court to strike their claims if the creditor cannot provide us with the proper paperwork.

Month 3 (Approximately 60-90 Days)

Locate assets and deal with creditors.

Month 4 (Approximately 90-120 Days)

Locate assets and deal with creditors.

Month 5 (Approximately 120-150 Days)

At this point, we should have located and liquidated all of the assets (as necessary), and any real estate can now be sold. (Note – we may be able to sell real estate after Month 1 and would place the proceeds in a restricted bank account – See *Exceptions below). We have also dealt with any creditors and are ready to ask the judge to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries.

Month 6 (Approximately 150-180 Days)

It is possible that the estate can be closed in Month 5, however, generally, it takes about 30 days or so for the judge to sign the order authorizing that the money be distributed to the beneficiaries and then another 15 days or so for the bank, where all the money is being held, to actually release the funds to the beneficiaries. In our experience, Month 6 is generally the time at which the beneficiaries will have their check in hand and the probate will be officially closed.

*Exceptions: Yes, there are always exceptions. Sometimes, the judge will allow you to sell property during that 90-day creditor period and place the proceeds into a restricted account. However, this is not the norm and really depends on the county where the property is located and who the judge is. If the property is in foreclosure or in threat of foreclosure, or some other hardship, most judges will allow the property to be sold within that 3-month window (assuming you have an experienced probate attorney who knows how to present this argument to the judge).

**This timeline is based on The Probate Law Firm’s experience of handling hundreds of probate matters. However, situations can and do arise that will cause the probate to last longer (or shorter). 

***If you need assistance with a probate matter in the State of Florida, please contact The Probate Law Firm at 305-456-3255 or send us an email at [email protected]. We offer complimentary, telephonic consultations and handle probate administration and litigation matters in all 67 counties of Florida.

CONCLUSION

The timelines provided above are a result of the hundreds of probate matters that The Probate Law Firm has handled and is based on an average of those cases. However, each probate is a little different, and a seemingly “simple” probate can be complicated by situations outside of our control. One thing to remember is that probate involves many moving pieces. There is a court, a judge, a judicial assistant, an attorney, a paralegal, a personal representative, a bank representative, a realtor, siblings, and the list goes on and on. No one person can control everyone and sometimes, someone or something throws a wrench into the mix that can changes things. However, a good attorney and a good law firm can make sure that these “surprises” are managed appropriately.

If you need assistance with a probate matter, give The Probate Law Firm a call at 305-456-3255 to discuss your specific situation. We take pride in performing a simple and efficient probate and will treat you and your clients, just like family. We believe that probate should be left to the attorneys so that the surviving family members and friends can focus on more important things such as grieving and spending time with loved ones.

Call us today at 305-456-3255 or send us an email at [email protected].