What Is Probate?

Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies.This legal process "proves" a will in court and accepts it as a the true and valid last testament of the deceased.

The Probate Process

The probate process includes:
  • Proving in court that a deceased person's will is valid
  • Identifying and inventorying property owned solely by the deceased
  • Appraising the property
  • Paying debts and taxes of the deceased
  • Distributing the remaining property according to the will
  • What Is Estate Planning?

    Your estate includes everything you own such as your car, home, bank accounts, life insurance, investments, and personal possessions. Estate planning allows you to determine in advance, how your estate will be distributed should you become disabled or die. A will or living trust can help ensure your estate is properly distributed. Planning your estate can help organize your records, and save you and your family money in the long-run.

    FAQs about Probate and Estates


    1What is probate?
    Probate is a court-supervised process for identifying and handling the assets of a deceased person. This process identifies the assets, pays the person's debts, and distributes their assets to beneficiaries.
    2What assets are considered "probate assets?"
    Probate assets are those that a person solely owned at death, or items that were owned by the decedent and one or more co-owners, but for which there were no provisions for automatic succession of ownership.
  • Bank accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Life insurance policy, annuity contract, or individual retirement account that is not set up as payable to a specific beneficiary.
  • Real estate titled in the sole name of the deceased person, (except homestead property) that does not have a legal successor.
  • 3Why is probate necessary?
    Probate is necessary to pass ownership of the deceased person's assets to their beneficiaries. If a person leaves a valid will, the will must be admitted to probate in court, or the items cannot be legally distributed. If a person does not leave a will, probate is necessary to pass ownership of their assets to those persons who are to receive them under Florida law.
    4How long does probate take?
    The time varies depending on a variety of factors. The simplest of probate estates must be open for at least the 3-month creditor claim period. A simple probate estate generally takes 5-6 months to handle.
    5Typical probate fees
    Probate fees are largely dependent on the value of the estate. The Clerk of Courts for each county may have differing fees for items including: (Costs shown are typical for Duval County, Florida)
  • Summary Administration for estates valued at less than $1,000 = $235.00
  • Summary Administration for estate valued at $1,000+ = $345
  • Petition and Order = $231.00
  • Guardianship of Property or Property and Person = $400
  • Service charge for estates valued at $25,000 or less = $20.00
  • Service charge for estates valued at $25,000 - $100,000 = $85.00
  • You can check current fee schedules at the Duval Clerk of Courts website: http://www2.duvalclerk.com/about/fee-schedules/


    1What is an estate?
    An estate includes items you own, property, and financial assets such as:
  • Tangible personal property such as tools, furniture, artwork, automobiles, equipment - anything you can touch.
  • Intangible personal property including cash in bank accounts, financial investments, retirement plans, insurance policies, interests in family businesses or partnerships, royalties, copyrights, patents, and stock options.
  • Real property or interests in real property that you own such as land, your home, rental property, and other property in which you hold a legal financial interest.
  • 2What is estate planning?
    Estate planning is making a plan in advance of your death, naming who you want to receive which of your estate items upon your death. Estate planning isn't just for older people. Since we never know what may happen, if you have possessions, you have an estate. And, if you have an estate, deciding how it will be divided upon your death is an important process in order to make sure your estate goes to the people you want.
    3What happens if I don't have an estate plan?
    If you die without leaving a valid will or trust, any assets titled in your name must go through your states' probate process before they can be distributed to your heirs.
    4What should be included in an estate plan?
    A good estate plan includes:
  • A Will and/or Trust
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney
  • Guardianship designations
  • Living Will
  • Depending on your circumstances, additional items may need to be included.
    5Do I need an estate plan?
    Yes. If you own things and you want them to go to someone specific when you die, you need estate planning. In particular, you should plan your estate now if you:
  • Are married
  • Have children
  • Own property
  • Own or have ownership in a business
  • Have a bank account, cash, or other financial assets
  • Have specific wishes regarding what happens to you if you become incapacitated