How to File a Will & Testament in Florida

by Heather Frances Google

    A will describes how the person writing it -- the testator -- wants his property to be distributed when he dies and nominates an executor, or personal representative, to administer his estate through the probate process. However, the representative cannot administer the testator's estate or properly distribute his assets until the will is filed with the Probate Division of the testator's local Circuit Court.

    Filing the Will

    Generally, probate is the process where the court appoints a personal representative to administer an estate; that person pays the testator's creditors and distributes his assets to his beneficiaries. If a deceased person has a will, the person holding it must file it with the clerk of the local Circuit Court’s Probate Division no more than 10 days after he finds out about the decedent’s death. This allows the court to use the provisions in the will during the probate process.

    Types of Probate

    Not every case requires a full, formal probate process, and the court may allow a simpler form of probate if the decedent’s estate qualifies. If the estate has less than $75,000 in assets or the decedent has been dead for more than two years, the court may permit a summary administration, which is quicker and less expensive. If the estate’s assets don’t exceed the costs of the decedent’s final expenses, like funeral expenses, the estate may be processed by filing a petition for disposition of personal property without administration.

    Opening Probate

    To initiate the probate case, someone must file a petition asking to be appointed as the estate’s personal representative, and he can file this petition at the same time as he files the will. He must also submit other paperwork, such as certified copies of the death certificate and a filing fee. Then, the court can appoint a personal representative to manage the estate. Typically, the court will appoint the person named in the decedent’s will unless there are objections.

    Ancillary Probate

    If the decedent owned property in more than one state, his will may be probated in another state. In such cases, the appointed personal representative may petition a Florida court to record the foreign will. The court will decide whether to admit the will into the court records. If accepted, the admission has the same effect as if the will were originally admitted to a Florida court for probate, with respect to the decedent's property within the state.

    About the Author

    Heather Frances has been writing professionally since 2005. Her work has been published in law reviews, local newspapers and online. Frances holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies education from the University of Wyoming and a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School.