IN FLORIDA, WHEN A PERSON DIES, HOW AND WHEN DOES THE READING OF THE WILL HAPPEN?
Although some relatives will meet with an attorney or with each other and go over a will together when a loved one dies, there is not usually a “reading of the will” as seen on television. The law simply says that the person who has the will must take the will and “deposit it” with the clerk of court in the county where the deceased person lived within ten days of finding out that the person passed.
HOW DO I “DEPOSIT” A WILL IN FLORIDA AFTER SOMEONE DIES?
So, how do you “deposit” a will? First, without taking it apart in anyway, you will want to make a copy to keep for yourself. Then, you will take the original will to the clerk of court in the county where the deceased person lived. You will go to the clerk’s window and tell them you need to deposit a will. It is free, and you will want to be sure to get a receipt documenting that you deposited the will. At the time you deposit the will, the clerk will ask you for the date of death and the last four digits of the social security number of the deceased person. Sometimes, especially if the social security number is not known, the deceased person’s birth date might be requested.
What if you didn’t deposit the will within ten days of learning of the person’s death? Go deposit it. While the law says you have to do it within ten days, sometimes the deadline is missed or the custodian of the will did not know of the responsibility to deposit it within ten days, and it gets deposited late. If that happens, it does not usually create any issues, and the will just gets deposited late. However, if you refuse to deposit the will, anyone who wants you to deposit the will can ask the court to make you deposit it and can ask for the court to make you pay attorney’s fees, costs, and/or damages.
IF MY FLORIDA RELATIVE OR FRIEND DIED AND I DO NOT HAVE A COPY OF THE WILL, CAN I GET A COPY OR SEE A COPY?
You do not have a right to the will while the person is living. However once a person has passed, and the will is deposited, you can request a copy from the clerk of court. State law prohibits wills and probate documents from being made available to the public on the Internet. However, you can order one or go in person to get a copy. There will be a small fee for getting the copy (estimated around $1.00 per page).
WHAT IF THE PERSON WHO HAS THE WILL REFUSES TO DEPOSIT IT WITH THE CLERK OF COURT?
You can file a lawsuit asking the court to make the person deposit the will and to make the person reimburse your court costs and any attorney’s fees.
MY LOVED ONE’S WILL NAMES ME AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE / EXECUTOR, WHERE DO I START?
You should start by having a consultation with an attorney. In some situations, it may not be necessary to probate a will and an attorney can help you determine if a probate is necessary. Many attorneys will provide a free consultation. If a probate is necessary, with some exceptions, Florida law requires the assistance of an attorney.
I HAVE BEEN NAMED PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE IN THE WILL, WHAT ARE MY DUTIES?
Being named or nominated as personal representative in the will of a Florida resident does not make you the personal representative. You become personal representative only when the Court appoints you to be the personal representative. So, if you have been nominated in the will and would like to be personal representative, you should get an attorney who will help you petition the court to open up the probate case and officially appoint you personal representative. When the Court officially appoints you to be the personal representative, the Court gives you a court order called “Letters of Administration.” The “Letters of Administration” authorizes you to get information and take certain actions on behalf of the estate. With the supervision of the Court and the assistance of your attorney, among other responsibilities, you will generally be responsible for gathering assets, handling creditor claims, and distributing property in accordance with the will and with the law. There are several steps and rules involved, and it might seem very stressful to read about it, but do not fret — your attorney will guide you through each step of the probate process and make it easy for you.