The deadline to challenge a will in Florida is 20 days, 3 months, or 4 years.
Florida probate lawyers are often asked what is the deadline to challenge a will in Florida probate. There are a number of deadlines for Florida probate, and one must be aware of them. The two most important deadlines are the twenty-day rule and the three-month rule. For a complete chart of probate deadlines and timelines in Florida, click here.
20-day Deadline To Challenge a Will If you Receive Formal Notice
If you are served with formal notice of a Petition for Administration, that formal notice will give 20 days within which to challenge the will by filing an objection to the Petition for Administration. If an objection is not filed, there is a substantial risk that the ability to challenge the will can be lost.
3-Month Deadline To Challenge a Will If you Receive a Notice of Administration
If instead of being served with formal notice of the petition for administration, one is served with a Notice of Administration, that document will state that the recipient has three months within which to challenge the probate of the will. If a Petition to Revoke Probate is not filed within the three month period, the ability to contest the will is lost.
What if One Never Receives the Petition for Administration or a Notice of Administration?
Is there no ability to challenge the will? One can always file a Petition to Revoke Probate, as long as the probate administration is still pending. Once the probate administration has closed, the ability to contest the will is severely limited. In some case, a claim for Intentional Interference with Expectancy can be filed, but the ability to file such a case is pretty narrow.
If a new will is discovered after the deadlines have passed, the new will can be admitted into probate, even if a prior will was already admitted, and even if the deadlines triggered by the Notice of Administration or a Petition for Administration have already passed. Once the probate administration has closed, the ability to offer a new will to undue the previous probate administration is likely going to be difficult.
If there is probate fraud, it is possible that the deadlines to challenge a will in Florida might not apply. The general rule of thumb is that on the outside, you have four years to challenge a will after death, if none of the other deadlines are triggered.
Can I Challenge A Will Or Trust Before Death?
No. The person must be dead before the will can be challenged, because a will can always be changed or revoked, at least in theory. So the first rule regarding when a will can be challenged is that the person must be dead, at least that is the rule in Florida.
It is possible to challenge a revocable trust before death in narrow circumstances, which can be advantageous. See Florida Trust Administration and Litigation Deadlines and Timelines. Also, it is possible to gather evidence for a will contest before death if there is a guardianship pending. In many cases involving strong disputes with much money present and an elderly and infirm person, the litigation beings before death in the form of a Florida guardianship. There is also typically a challenge to revocable trusts, lifetime gifts, and uses of powers of attorney.