How Probate in Florida Differs from Other States

Probate laws and the courts that interpret them are not under the jurisdiction of the federal government or the federal court system. Since Massachusetts empowered the country's first probate court in 1784, each state has devised its own statutes and codes for probating wills and administrating estates and trusts.

In addition, each state evolved its own system of court proceedings and precedents that control and oversee the processes and procedures that determine how someone's estate is distributed among beneficiaries and heirs.

Florida drafted its probate laws beginning in the early 1800s. It has a well-developed probate code which it enacted in 1933 and revised in 1945. In 1976, the state adopted new probate legislation that incorporated various parts of the Uniform Probate Code (UPC) as originally written or amended.

State lawmakers continually revise and update specific statutes. In 1997, they removed all gender-specific language from the probate code and, in 2001 the Florida legislature revised it yet again.

Because state laws prevail when it comes to probate, uniformity can be erratic. So there are myriad ways in which Florida probate laws can differ from those in other states.

For example, laws particular to the Sunshine State that cannot be assumed to be in force elsewhere include:

The judicial forms of probate administration available
Matters concerning the disposition of intestate estates
Rules governing property distribution among heirs and beneficiaries
Allowances and exemptions that exist for surviving spouses and dependent children

Florida and the Uniform Probate Code

In 1969, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws drafted the first Uniform Probate Code. Since then, it was updated several times, most recently in 2010.

The UPC's purpose is to streamline and modernize the various state laws concerning probate and help standardize the different ways in which state courts handle probate matters. While it was intended to be implemented in all 50 states, each state legislature decides whether to apply the UPC as well as any of its various articles and revisions.

Several states adopted parts of the UPC and17 enacted it in its entirety, or as amended. Those states are:

New Jersey
New Mexico
North Dakota
South Carolina
South Dakota

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