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Probate Administration in Florida

By Howard C. Stross
February 19, 2014

Many people come to their estate planning attorney and say that one of their goals is avoiding probate. Did you know that there are actually several different types of probate administration in Florida? This blog article will discuss the two main types of probate administration in Florida.

 Summary Probate Administration

If you have a small estate when you pass away, your loved ones may be able to settle it through summary probate administration. A summary probate is an abbreviated proceeding which can take significantly less time than a formal probate administration.

A summary probate administration can be filed if the probate estate is less than $75,000. This may apply to more people than you think. If someone passes away with $2,000 in their checking account, $50,000 in their savings account, a car, and a house, their estate may be eligible for summary probate administration. The value of the homestead property doesn’t count towards the $75,000 limit. Also, assets that have a specific beneficiary designation, such as retirement accounts or life insurance, are not part of the probate administration, so those assets don’t count towards the $75,000 limit either.

If the surviving family members are procrastinators, a summary probate is their reward. A summary probate administration can be done if it has been at least two years since the date of death, regardless of the amount of the probate estate.

There are some limitations to a summary probate administration. One is that it is a “one-stop-shop”. All assets, creditors, and beneficiaries must be known prior to filing the petition with the probate court. If more assets are discovered after the court has issued the order, a new probate administration needs to be opened. Therefore, if the petitioner is not organized, there could be twice the filing fees and additional attorneys’ fees.

Another limitation to a summary probate administration is that a personal representative is never appointed. If someone passed away because of a car accident and settlement paperwork needs to be signed, a formal probate administration is necessary.

Formal Probate Administration

When most people think of probate administration, they think of a formal probate administration. In a formal probate, a personal representative is appointed by a judge in order to settle the estate. A personal representative is sometimes called an executor in other states.

After the court appoints the personal representative, he or she has the authority to gather all of the assets, notify and pay the creditors, file the necessary tax returns, and then ultimately distribute the assets to the heirs or beneficiaries.

Depending on how organized the deceased person was, this process may or may not be easy. If the personal representative was involved in paying bills, he or she may know where all of the assets are and who all of the creditors are. The personal representative may have even assisted with filing prior tax returns. However, if the survivors don’t know anything about the deceased person’s affairs and the deceased person did not leave instructions, this may turn into a long frustrating process. It is important to have an estate plan so that your probate administration isn’t a burden on your loved ones.

This article is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. If a loved one has passed away and you need to probate a will, you can talk to an experienced Florida probate attorney at our office. Call us at 813-852-6500 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.  

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The lawyers at the Stross Law Firm, P.A. invite you to call or e-mail to arrange a free 30-minute consultation regarding your legal and advisory needs concerning business law, real estate, estate planning, probate and trust administration. We serve clients throughout Florida. Find out how we work and how we may be able to help you.