What is a will? When and where should it be filed?
A will is a document executed by a person which disposes of his/her property after his/her death. A will generally names a personal representative to administer the estate. After the death of the person, the custodian of the will must deposit the will with the Clerk of the Circuit Court, within ten (10) days after receiving information that the person is deceased. The custodian should supply the person's date of death or the person's social security number to the Clerk upon deposit of the will, if this information is available.
The original copy of the will should be kept in a safe, secure place and should be accessible by your designated personal representative after your death.
Do you need an attorney to deposit a will?
No. An attorney is not necessary to deposit the will with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. However, you may want to consult with an attorney before filing so that he or she may determine whether Probate proceedings will be necessary.
What different types of proceedings can be filed depending on the size of the estate?
There are three basic types of proceedings for administering the decedent's estate:
- Formal Administration
This type of proceeding is used when it is necessary to appoint a personal representative to act on behalf of the estate because there are considerable assets or other special circumstances. The capacity in which the representative will act is determined by the Court at the time of the appointment and letters of administration will be issued to the representative so that he/she may complete the administration of the estate.
- Summary Administration
Summary administration may be filed when the value of the entire estate does not exceed $75,000.
- Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration
The disposition is filed to request release of assets of the deceased to the person who paid the final expenses; such as funeral bills or medical bills for the last 60 days. This procedure may be accomplished with the filing of a petition. The form required to file the disposition is available from the Clerk of Circuit Court in the Probate Division. This cannot include real property. NOTE: The asset cannot exceed the amount of the final expenses.
What happens if a person dies and has left no will?
The property will be distributed in accordance with the Florida Statutes.
What happens if there is a will filed but no personal representative has been named?
It will be necessary for an attorney to petition the Court to appoint a personal representative to administer the estate.
How are probate proceedings initiated?
Probate proceedings are initiated with the filing of a Petition by an interested person asking to be appointed personal representative and/or distribute property depending on size and complexity of property. The Petition is normally prepared by an attorney. The appointed person will be responsible for the estate until all bills are paid and the balance of the estate is distributed to the rightful beneficiaries.
What type of paperwork must accompany the form for filing a disposition of personal property without administration?
The following must be provided:
- If the decedent has a will, it must be filed with the Clerk of Circuit Court within ten days of the notice of death.
- Itemized funeral bill.
- Paid receipts for any medical expenses incurred sixty days prior to death.
- Death certificate.
- Specific identification regarding the type of asset to be released.
- Identification of the person filing.
- Filing fee as set by Florida Statute.
- Receipt for payment of funeral bill - receipt must identify individual paying bill.
What happens after this information is filed with the Clerk?
If the Court is satisfied that this proceeding is applicable, the Court, by letter or other writing under the seal of the court, may authorize the payment, transfer, or disposition of the personal property, belonging to the decedent to those persons entitled. The Clerk of Court, Probate Division, would suggest that you call in advance of your trip to the Probate Office. This will afford us an opportunity to discuss the required items, possibly avoiding an unnecessary trip or delay to the petitioner(s).
How can I see or obtain a copy of a will?
At this time, the Florida Supreme Court does not allow public internet access for viewing imaged court documents.
Images of probate court documents are available for viewing at any of the Clerk’s locations on the public view terminals. Our staff will be happy to demonstrate if you should need assistance.
The paper documents filed in the probate court files are available for viewing at the M.C. Blanchard Judicial Building location (map). If you would like to view a file, it is advisable to call ahead to be sure the file is available, and has not been sent to the court or to another office.
You may also order, by telephone or email, copies of any document not sealed by Florida Statute, Probate Rule, Administrative Order or Court Order. The copies will be mailed to you upon receipt of the service fee and postage.