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What Happens If You Don’t File a Will in Florida?

Updated: May 6

Filing a will after a person dies is one of the most important things you can do. However, with so many things going on it can be easy to overlook this step.

So, what happens if you don't file a will in Florida?

If a valid will exists but was not filed with the state of Florida, the decedent's assets and property cannot be transferred to beneficiaries.

In Florida and most other places around the country, certain administrative requirements exist for assets to be distributed after a person dies. Filing their last will and testament with a probate court is one of them, as it initiates the probate process.

Here's what happens if you don't file someone's will after they pass away.

What Are the Penalties for Not Filing a Will in Florida?

If a will is not filed on behalf of the decedent, friends, family, and representatives can feel all sorts of repercussions. From tax penalties to holding the executor personally liable for court costs, it's important to file someone's will and avoid these issues.

The Executor Can be Held Personally Responsible for Damages

If the estate's personal representative, or executor, does not file a will to initiate the probate process, they can face legal recourse.

If the court finds that the executor was aware of the death and knew their duties but purposely avoided them, they could be personally responsible for all court costs.

Additionally, debt collectors and family members could sue the representative if they are damaged financially.

For example, if a beneficiary of a will was waiting on the asset transfer to pay off some type of debt, but the executor didn't file the will on time, the beneficiary could have suffered financial repercussions. Whether it caused them to file for bankruptcy or their debt grew to an unmanageable amount, the executor of the will can be held responsible for these financial damages.

Tax Penalties Could Accrue

Until an estate has completed the probate process, there is no way of telling how much, if any, taxes are due. However, if outstanding taxes need to be paid, they will continue accumulating interest, penalties, and fines.

In the case of real estate, this could cause the foreclosure of a property. This means heirs may not have the ability to receive it when probate is over.

Why You Should File a Will as Soon as Possible in Florida

Besides the penalties mentioned above, staying on top of filling a will in Florida is going to help beneficiaries get the property left to them by the decedent quicker and prevent creditors from pursuing them.

Assets Cannot Be Transferred

Failure to file the last will and testament will hold up asset transfer — titled and non-titled assets.

Titled assets will remain in the decedent’s name, which can lead to several problems. For example, taxes will continue to accumulate and the assets may not be able to be sold in the future due to repossession or foreclosure.

For non-titled assets, property distribution is at the hands of the court. After outstanding debts are paid, they will allocate the remaining non-titled assets to the closest family members.

Creditors Will Continue Claims

Even if a will is not submitted, creditors can still seek compensation for their debts. This means they could sue your estate or anyone that received compensation due to the death.

If a will is filed correctly and on time, creditors will get paid before any of the listed beneficiaries, leaving them no reason to pursue family members.

Where Do You File a Will in Florida?

In Florida, you must file a will at the county clerk of courts in the county the decedent resided. For example, if the person lived in Pinellas County, FL, you would file the will with the Pinellas County clerk of court.

To locate the right court, you can Google, “[county the decedent lived] county clerk of court”, or “[county the decedent lived] county probate court”.

How Long Do You Have to File a Will in Florida?

You have 10 days to file a will upon learning of the death. If it is after 10 days, you must prove that you weren’t aware of the death or that you had a legitimate reason for missing the 10-day window.

What if a Person Doesn’t Have a Will?

If a person dies without a will in Florida, a court will distribute their assets to the family and any joint owner of property or bank accounts. Without a will, probate can easily take over a year to complete.

The probate process involves compiling all assets, settling debts, and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries. While it will still happen without a will, the administration of assets will take vastly longer than if the decedent had one.

What Are the Benefits of Having a Will in Florida?

Establishing a will isn’t something most people want to think about, but doing so is a great way to prepare for the worst. Getting it over with will give you peace of mind and benefit your loved ones when you are gone.

Benefits of having a will include:

  • Your property will be distributed according to your wishes

  • It will save your loved ones hundreds or thousands of dollars in probate and estate administration expenses

  • Gives beneficiaries the maximum amount they are entitled to

Do You Need Help Filing a Will in Florida?

Give us a call or send us a message if you want our experienced estate planning attorney to help you file a will in Florida. We assure you that it will be filed correctly, so loved ones can get the maximum benefit from the will.

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