If you have been named the executor or personal representative of a loved one’s estate, you are no doubt aware of the heavy responsibility on your shoulders. Not only have you been entrusted with someone’s legacy, but you must now figure out how to handle it within the legal and judicial framework of Florida. Fortunately for you, a Farshchian Law Probate Attorney is just one call away from being your dedicated advisor and guide through this often-complex process. We can even help you to determine if there is a way to streamline or circumvent the probate process altogether.
Florida’s Simplified Probate Procedures
While Florida does not have a “Small Estate Process” like other states, it does provide a simplified process that reduces the burden of having to go through a full (or formal) probate administration.
With the help of a Probate Attorney, an executor can file a written request with the probate court that allows for the distribution of assets without going through the procedures of “Formal Probate Administration” (i.e., “normal” probate, which can take six to nine months to complete, or even longer in certain circumstances).
The probate court is more likely to approve the request in one of two circumstances set forth under Chapter 735 of the Florida Statutes, which deals specifically with small estates:
- The estate lacks real estate and its assets—except for those needed to pay funeral expenses or the decedent’s last two months of medical care—are exempt from the claims of creditors. In this instance, the probate court will authorize the transfer of the assets to the rightful heir or beneficiary with a simple letter or application. This process is called Disposition of Personal Property without Administration. There is only a limited number of assets that can qualify for this process, such as up to $1,000 of personal homestead property (or up to $4,000 if the decedent never claimed or received benefits of the Florida homestead exemption), up to $20,000 in certain household goods (like furniture and appliances), and prepaid tuition programs.
- The total value of the estate—measured by the assets within the state of Florida minus what is exempted from creditor claims (such as homestead property) does not exceed $75,000 or the decedent passed away over two years ago.
The latter situation requires the filing of a petition for “Summary Administration,” which is basically a shortened version of Formal Administration.
The Summary Administration Process in Florida
If the estate meets either of the above two requirements, the executor (a.k.a. personal representative) of the estate nominated in the Will, or any beneficiary or heir (i.e., those who will inherit from the estate), can file a “Petition for Summary Administration” with the probate court. This document must be signed and verified by any surviving spouse and all beneficiaries (who can also sign separate joinder forms). Any beneficiary who does not sign must be formally notified that the petition has been filed (either through personal delivery by a process server or via certified mail). If the deceased passed away less than two years prior, potential creditors with claims over the estate assets must also be notified (and paid accordingly).
The petition must state that the estate qualifies for summary administration, namely by listing the deceased person’s assets, the value of those assets, and who inherits which assets. If the deceased left a a Last Will and Testament, a copy of the Last Will and Testament must be filed with the petition. If the probate court accepts the petition and the other required filings, it will issue an order allowing the property to be transferred to the rightful inheritors. This order can even be used to obtain the decedent’s assets in a bank account that is solely in their name (and which you would otherwise not have access to).
Note that if the deceased passed away less than two years ago, a notice to creditors may be required. This notice is published in a newspaper of general circulation located in the county where the petition is filed. Once the notice is published, it gives creditors only three months to make a claim.
Benefit from these Shortcuts and More with the Help of Our Probate Attorneys
Our team of probate experts has seen it all. We have handled estates of all shapes and sizes throughout Florida, including many estates that are ideal candidates for the summary administration process. Not only do we know when the summary administration process works best, but we can also find various other ways to make the probate process as quick, simple, and cost-effective as possible. To learn more about how our probate team can help you, Please call us at (800) 604-1871 or email us at Probate@JFRealEstateLaw.com.