Fulfilling the terms of a will usually is not as simple as bringing the family together and handing out checks and deeds. Florida law has a set procedure that ensures that minimizes the chance of errors, and gives creditors the chance to be paid off by the decedent’s estate.
As we have discussed in the past, smaller estates may qualify for summary administration, which is a faster and easier process. But if the decedent left behind any debts, or had certain assets valued above $75,000, it is probable that the estate will have to go through formal administration.
One of the first steps of formal administration is appointing the personal representative. That person, also known as the executor of the estate, must publish a notice of administration. Once published, potential creditors of the decedent have three months to file a claim against the estate.
Meanwhile, the personal representative is responsible for getting assets appraised, sending an inventory to the beneficiaries and figuring out tax issues. When the creditor claims come in, the executor reviews them and decides whether to pay the claims or contest any of them.
After the three-month period for creditor claims, and once all legitimate claims have been paid, the personal representative may begin preparing a Final Accounting and Petition for Discharge, and giving notice to the beneficiaries. If nobody objects to either document, the executor can then begin distributing the remaining assets according to the terms of the will.
Depending on how long it takes to resolve all creditor matters, distribute the assets and possibly file a tax return with the IRS, formal administration can take as long as two years. Estates that do not need to pay taxes typically take between six and 12 months to complete.