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What Does It Cost to Probate a Will in Florida?

Taking care of proper estate planning can make things easier for your loved ones, including keeping them out of probate if and when you, unfortunately, pass away. If you pass away with a will, this must go through probate in the state of Florida. Likewise, if you pass away with no estate planning, especially no will, this means that you have passed away “intestate.” Florida's intestate succession laws will apply to determine how your property will be distributed, but it still must go through the Florida probate process. 

Understanding how probate works in Florida can help you determine if and when you create an estate plan, and it can also help you if you have recently lost a loved one and are curious about what the process will look like. Many people want to know, "What does it cost to probate a will in Florida?" This is because they are concerned about the amount of time that it might take for them to have to go through court.

When you are worried about the cost of probating a will, it’s likely because you’re a beneficiary of that estate and want to make sure that the assets your loved one set aside for you are still there for you. This is a reasonable concern and there are many reasons to hire a dedicated probate lawyer to help you if you believe that something is amiss in the management of your loved one’s probated estate. 

Factors That Influence FL Probate Cost 

The cost of probate in Florida will also depend on how many assets there are, the type of assets, the number of beneficiaries, and whether or not any claims against probate or the estate are filed. When any issues occur during the probate process, this can cause expensive delays. If you are a family member who is counting on receiving this asset in a timely manner, you might need to adjust your expectations or work with legal counsel to have a better understanding of what your options are. 

Understanding Probate 

When a person passes away in Florida, a portion of their estate will most likely need to go through the court process known as probate. This formally settles the estate and ensures that all creditors and other debts are handled before giving the remaining assets to beneficiaries. There is no legal requirement to probate a will in Florida. 

However, if you are a loved one or have been appointed to administer the estate of a loved one after they have passed away, you will need to file a will with the court within 10 days of finding out about the death. The initial process of Florida probate begins by nominating an executor. This gives the executor the illegal authority to take actions on behalf of the estate, such as paying any taxes or debts the estate might owe.

Time for Probate 

The probate process can take anywhere from a couple of months to a few years, depending on the complexity and whether or not there are any issues. Probate fees in Florida will depend on many different factors, including the complication level of the estate, court and filing fees required, estate location, and value. If there are any people who contest the will, whether any previous estate plans have been created and whether or not a probate lawyer is used. 

In many cases, a personal representative or executor appointed to handle the administration of a loved one's estate will retain an experienced probate lawyer to help them navigate this process. This is because it can be extremely confusing with rigid rules in place, such as timelines and deadlines for filing tax returns and handling other probate aspects.

Most people serving as a personal representative have never done so before and are at the mercy of what estate planning if any, the deceased did. This can present significant problems for all beneficiaries and the personal representative as this person tries to sort through the details. 

Another reason to hire an experienced Florida probate attorney is that there are many issues you may not expect to deal with in the process of closing out a loved one's estate. You can not only get peace of mind from working directly with a probate lawyer but also more information about how to proceed and what you are likely to encounter. It can also give you access to an experienced professional in the event that an issue occurs or in the event, you find yourself in over your head. 

A knowledgeable Florida probate lawyer can help you navigate claims against the estate that are filed so that you can respond promptly. There are several different kinds of fees that can emerge during a Florida probate process. These can include attorney fees, such as working with a probate lawyer, land survey fees, accounting fees, appraisal fees, filing in court fees, executor compensation and fees, and executor or probate bonds. The price will range for executor and probate bonds, but these are typically required by county courts in Florida.

Paying for Executor Fees and Lawyers 

It might be the case that an executor has to do a lot of work to manage probate or that outside help in the form of a lawyer is required. An executor is within their rights to hire this outside help. Of course, beneficiaries might be worried about reasonable costs for this, since all assets to pay executors and lawyers come from the probate assets themselves. 

Florida is a reasonable compensation state for executor payment, meaning that an executor is entitled to fees for the work that they put in.

Probate Length in Florida: What’s Typical? 

For most normal cases of probate in Florida, it lasts between six and nine months. Contested or complicated estates, however, can take much longer. There are several different ways to settle an estate in Florida. Sometimes, a person's entire assets may be held in ways outside of probate, such as property held in joint tenancy, transfer on death assets, assets held in a living trust, and more.

In these circumstances, those assets pass directly to the chosen beneficiaries when the person first passes away. When final expenses cost more than the value of the estate, no probate might be required. For estate values that are less than $75,000 in assets, summary administration is a shortcut to the probate process if the death happened more than two years ago.

Finally, formal administration refers to the typical probate process, which is the longest of the options and can also be the most expensive. Florida has adopted the uniform probate code to handle streamline uniform probate processes. 

Should You Hire a Probate Lawyer? 

One of the most confusing aspects of navigating probate is figuring out when a lawyer is needed. If it is difficult to locate assets, if claims are being filed against the estate, or if beneficiaries alleged that you have engaged in misconduct as the executor or any other complex situations apply, you might need to retain a probate lawyer to help you. In some cases, family members might not be able to find the assets that are intended to go through probate or may struggle with intestate succession in terms of contacting the appropriate family members who could become entitled to compensation.

The support of an experienced probate lawyer can help an executor navigate through these situations and provide further context about what to expect. Since an executor also has some level of personal liability associated with closing out the estate, hiring a lawyer can give them peace of mind that they have taken care of all of the most important details. 

Attorney fees in Florida can be one of the biggest expenses in the entire probate process but can also help to streamline the administration of a probate and reduce the possibility of mistakes. Fees are usually one to three percent of the total value of the estate and can be adjusted based on complexity. Reasonable attorney fees in Florida for estates between $40,000 or less start at $1,500. This goes up on a sliding scale, such that for states between $40,000 and $70,000, reasonable fees are 2,250, and for estates with more than $10 million in assets and above, one percent of the total value.

Many of the costs associated with managing probate in Florida go directly to the court, such as a filing fee for the court to accept the will and formally open the probate. The cost of probating a will in Florida is relatively heavy because the application often involves payment, not only for attorney fees, but other expenses if the case is filed with the circuit court. This can include notices fees, extra costs for out-of-state probate costs for those assets held in multiple locations, executor bond fees, and translation of wills or documents. It is always in your best interest to retain an experienced and knowledgeable probate lawyer to help you navigate this process.
 
If you are attempting to navigate the probate process in Florida, contact the experts at Morgan & Morgan today to get started with a free, no-obligation case evaluation. Discover your options and your best next steps. We’re here to help.

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