The executor of a will is responsible for filing the will with the local county clerk on the decedent's behalf. With such an important task, it's vital to choose an executor you trust to get the job done right or leave it up to an experienced attorney.
Filing a will is vital, as failure to do so will delay asset distribution and cause the executor to incur penalties. So, if you are, or may become, an executor, here is how to file a will in Florida.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document used for estate planning. It lays out exactly how someone wants their assets to be distributed after they die.
If you have any assets or belongings to pass on, you and your family can benefit from a will.
Appointing an Executor of Your Will
When you create a will, you need to appoint an executor. It can be an entity, like a financial institution, or a person, such as a lawyer or trusted friend. They are responsible for many of the clerical tasks required after you die.
Most importantly, they are tasked with filing your will and seeing that your final wishes are carried out.
How to File a Will in Florida
The first step is to get the will into the hands of the executor. The will must be the original, most up-to-date version. If the original copy of the will can't be found, the decedent's assets will be distributed through probate court.
If only a copy of the will is available, the court must be convinced that an original version existed at some point and the copy is an exact replica.
Next, the executor will file the will with the county clerk of courts. They will need to provide the court with the decedent’s date of death and the last four digits of their social security number.
There are a few ways you can file the will:
Drop the will off in person at the local county clerk's office
Mail it to the county clerk's office
Hire a lawyer to file the will for you
How Long Do I Have to File a Will in Florida?
In Florida, the executor has 10 days from the death of the decedent to file a will. Filing a will in Florida is important because it’s necessary to start the probate process. Probate is possible to avoid, but is almost always required when a will is involved.
Where Do I File a Will in Florida?
You have to file a will in Florida at a specific court — the circuit court of the county in which the decedent lived at the time of death. This will be called [County Name] County Clerk of Courts. For example, Hillsborough County Clerk of Courts or Pinellas County Clerk of Courts.
You can use a search engine to find the correct court in your county by searching “probate court in [county].”
When the will is submitted, the executor will file a petition for probate. This starts the process for the will to be verified by the court so assets can be distributed.
What Happens If I Don't File a Will in Florida?
If you cannot file the will for a decedent for any reason — whether it doesn't exist or is deemed invalid — the assets of the decedent's estate will be distributed according to Florida's intestacy laws.
Is a Will Required in Florida?
No, a will is not required in Florida. However, without a will, asset distribution is at the hands of the court.
You don't need to have a big house or fancy possessions for a will to be worthwhile. Even if you have a prized record collection you want to leave to a close friend or want to make sure a specific family member receives your car, a will establishes those wishes.
Not only that, but if someone dies without a will and has children under 18, a court also determines their guardian. They usually go to the closest remaining family member despite that not always being an ideal situation for the child.
Get Help With Your Florida Will
If you need help with your Florida will, contact us today.