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How to Close a Florida Estate in 3 Steps

How to Close a Florida Estate in 3 Steps
Estate Planning and Probate
Jason Neufeld
April 17, 2024

As a personal representative tasked with administering a Florida estate, you've already been on quite the journey - gathering assets, paying creditors, and handling the myriad duties of estate administration.

But now, you've arrived at the final stage: officially closing out the estate. This last phase is crucial to protect yourself from any lingering liability and finally lay the entire probate process to rest.

By dotting all the i's and crossing the t's, you demonstrate your full compliance with Florida probate laws and efforts to settle the estate completely and accurately.

Failing to close the estate exposes you to potential claims from creditors or beneficiaries years down the line. With that said, let's close this estate properly.

Step 1: Filing the Petition for Discharge

Under Florida Probate Rule 5.400, the petition for discharge acts as your formal request to the court that you've fully administered the estate and seek to be discharged of your duties.

This petition contains a number of key statements certifying you've completed all tasks like:

  • Paying off valid creditor claims
  • Making provisions for taxes and administrative expenses
  • Detailing charges for any professionals hired (attorneys, accountants, etc.)

Most importantly, the petition must propose a comprehensive plan for distributing the remaining estate assets to the rightful beneficiaries. More on that distribution plan in a moment.

The petition gets served on all interested parties, who then have 30 days to file any objections challenging the discharge.

What to Include in the Final Accounting

Accompanying that petition for discharge is the final accounting - an itemized report of all money and property that came into the estate, as well as expenses paid out over the course of administration.

More than just a spreadsheet of numbers, this document holds you accountable to beneficiaries. It demonstrates how you properly valued, managed, and disbursed the estate assets in line with Florida law.

Valid accountings will show:

  • All receipts of cash, real property, securities, and other holdings
  • Gains or losses in asset values over time
  • Each and every disbursement for debts, taxes, professional fees, etc.
  • Proposed distributions of what's left to the beneficiaries

Thorough documentation here is essential. We've helped many personal representatives craft bulletproof final accountings to withstand any objections.

Step 2: Distributing Remaining Estate Assets

Speaking of distributions, the most anticipated part of your closing duties is finally passing the remaining estate assets to the rightful beneficiaries per the terms of the will or Florida's intestate laws.

Your petition for discharge must outline this proposed plan of distribution, including a schedule of prior distributions, what assets are still in your possession, and precisely how you'll be making those final transfers.

Often, beneficiaries are more than happy to waive their rights to receive a formal accounting, allowing you to distribute assets sooner. But be cautious, as waivers don't release your full liability until the court grants discharge.

Beneficiary Waivers and Consents

When there are no disputes over your accountings, many beneficiaries execute waivers consenting to your discharge and the distribution plan. These waivers can streamline and accelerate the closing process.

However, any beneficiary objections suddenly put the whole plan on hold. You may face mediation or end up petitioning the court to resolve conflicts. Our team has successfully navigated countless beneficiary disputes to bring closure.

Step 3: Receiving the Order of Discharge

Assuming no major objections, the court will hold a final hearing sometime after that 30-day objection window closes on your petition for discharge. If all goes smoothly, the judge will enter the official order discharging you of further duties as personal representative.

With that discharge order in hand, you've reached the true ending of your noble quest. The estate is officially closed, and you are free to start making those final distributions and tying up any loose ends.

This discharge is no mere formality – it represents the termination of your fiduciary duties and legal sign-off on your administration. Closing without it means you remain indefinitely liable for any missteps, however unintentional.

Duties After Discharge is Granted

Even after discharge, a few basic housekeeping tasks remain:

  • Following through on the proposed distribution plan
  • Settling any leftover estate expenses from closing costs
  • Closing out any open estate accounts now that assets changed hands

With those final distributions made and books closed you can breathe that well-earned sigh of relief. You've shepherded the estate through probate - congratulations!

Closing an Estate the Right Way - Consult Elder Needs Law

Closing an estate and obtaining that all-important order of discharge from the court signifies your job as a personal representative is complete. No more administrative tasks, no more potential claims - you can walk away free and clear.

But reaching that point requires complying with the procedures laid out by Florida's probate rules. Central to this process are the petition for discharge, the final accounting, and statements regarding any remaining creditors.

Despite your most valiant efforts, properly closing a Florida estate can still hit unexpected snags in the lengthy journey. Why go it alone and risk a misstep that upends everything at the final hurdle?

When you need a seasoned personal representative to light the way through these concluding probate duties, call our Florida probate team at Elder Needs Law. We've cleared this mythical path countless times before.

Don't leave gaps that keep you entangled in liability any longer than necessary. Bring us aboard to ensure you cross that finish line through a comprehensive, court-approved estate closing. Your hard-fought reward of unburdened discharge awaits just ahead.

Contact Elder Needs Law today to guide you through the final estate closing steps properly.

Jason Neufeld

Jason Neufeld is the Founder and Managing Partner of Elder Needs Law, a Florida estate planning and elder law firm he created in 2017. With more than 15 years of experience practicing law, he represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, including Medicaid planning, estate planning, elder law, probate, Medicare, and life insurance.

Jason received his Juris Doctor from the University of Miami — School of Law and is a member of the Florida Bar and the Broward County Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named a Rising Star and Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers and among the Florida Legal Elite by Florida Trend in 2024.

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