Probate refers to the combined result of all the procedural acts necessary to establish the validity of a will. It is a legal process through which the assets of a deceased person are inventoried, distributed to pay creditors' claims against the estate, and, if there are remaining assets, distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries. The court determines the validity of the will and oversees the process to ensure that the estate is properly administered.

Probate Filing Procedures

Probate proceedings are initiated by filing a petition seeking to administer an estate or to admit a will to probate. A filing fee is required and will vary according to the type of administration necessary for the estate – see filing fee chart.

The venue is the county or state where the decedent resided, or if no proceeding in that county or state, where the property is located.

A library of probate forms can be found by visiting the Ninth Circuit Court’s website. 

Type of Program Administration

There are three basic types of proceedings for administering the decedent's estate: 

Formal Administration 
This type of proceeding is used when there are considerable assets and it is necessary to appoint a personal representative to act on behalf of the estate. Letters of administration will be issued to the personal representative so that he or she will be able to administer the estate. 

A formal administration must be filed by an attorney licensed to practice law in Florida, unless the personal representative is the sole beneficiary.

Summary Administration 
Summary administration may be filed when the value of the entire estate does not exceed $75,000 or when the decedent has been deceased for more than two years. If the decedent has been deceased for less than two years, a copy of the funeral bill is also required.

Disposition of Personal Property without Administration 
This type of proceeding is filed to request release of the decedent's assets to the person who paid for final expenses such as funeral costs or medical bills that accrued in the last 60 days. 

Disposition of personal property without administration cannot:

  • Exceed $6,000
  • Exceed the amount of funeral bill
  • Include real estate
  • Transfer loans
  • Release assets from a safe deposit box

Disposition of Personal Property w/out Administration

The following must be provided along with the petition for disposition of personal property without administration: 

  • Itemized, paid funeral bill
  • Paid receipts for any medical expenses incurred 60 days prior to death
  • Death certificate
  • Documents verifying the asset to be released
  • Notarized consents from all persons who paid toward the funeral bill

If the decedent has a will, it must be filed with the Clerk’s Office within 10 days of the notice of death.

If the court determines that the petitioner is entitled to the decedent's assets, the court will enter an authorization allowing the release or transfer of the assets. The original authorization is mailed to the petitioner.

Legal Representation

Probate procedures can be highly complex, you may wish to consult an attorney before proceeding.

Examples of when an attorney may be required during probate proceedings include:

  • Real estate transactions in Orange County
  • Probate filed in another county or state, with real property in Orange County
  • Real estate encumbered by a mortgage
  • Vehicles encumbered by a lien or loan
  • Seeking lawsuit or medical records on behalf of the deceased
  • Determining beneficiaries