Skip to Content Top
Probate Administration

Jacksonville Probate and Estate Planning Lawyers


The loss of a loved one is a time filled with sorrow and grief. When a death takes place you may experience a wide range of emotions, even when a death is expected, but rarely are you prepared for the avalanche of legal questions and problems that inevitably follow. Florida probate administration is a specialized practice area involving the post-death administration and transfer of assets and payment of debts according to a person’s Will or under Florida law in the event that there was no Will. My firm has the knowledge and experience to guide you through the entire probate process.

1. What is Probate?

Probate is a court-supervised process for identifying and gathering the assets of the decedent, paying the decedent’s debts, and distributing the decedent’s assets to beneficiaries. The most common types of probate in Florida are formal administration and summary administration. A knowledgeable lawyer will advise you as to which form of administration is required based on the individual circumstances involved. In spite of the rumors that most of us have heard, the State does not “take” your property if you don’t have a Will except in extremely rare cases. Instead, State law makes a determination for you, based on what is generally accepted in our society as the standard Will, of who will take from the estate.

2. How long does probate take?

Each case is different, and some probate administrations can take longer that others. For example, the personal representative may need to sell real estate or resolve a disputed claim filed by a creditor before the settling the estate. Those situations would tend to lengthen the time for administration. It is reasonable to expect that a simple probate estate will take about five or six months to properly administer. This does not mean that all of the assets of the estate will be tied up for that length of time, however. In most cases it is possible to transfer homestead real property, vehicles, furniture and furnishings and make partial distributions earlier in the administration.

3. What are Probate Assets?

Generally, probate assets are those assets in the decedent’s name alone at the time of death and which contain no provision for automatic succession of ownership at death such as a named beneficiary or “payable on death” beneficiary.

For example:

A bank account in the decedent’s name alone is a probate asset, but a bank account held jointly with another person, or an account with a named beneficiary is not a probate asset if those persons are living at the time of decedent’s death.

A life insurance policy, annuity or IRA that is payable to a specific beneficiary is not a probate asset if that persons is alive at the time of decedent’s death, but a policy payable to decedent’s estate is a probate asset.

Real estate titled in the decedent’s name alone or as a tenant in common with another person is a probate asset unless it is homestead real property, but real estate held as tenants by the entirety or joint tenants with right of survivorship is not a probate asset.

4. Can You Avoid Probate?

With careful estate planning by an experienced lawyer, there are often things that you can do now which may mean that your estate doesn’t have to go through probate later. Depending on individual circumstances, property can be re-titled, put into a trust, or have beneficiaries added.

Florida laws regarding probate are complex. You need an attorney with the knowledge and experience with probate necessary to properly administer the estate. My firm has over 49 years of combined legal experience guiding grieving family members through the probate process and I will help make this as stress-free as possible for you.