While many people leave behind large and complex estates, other estates are much more modest, but of no less importance. For smaller estates, or where the decedent passed away more than two years ago, Florida provides a streamlined and simplified probate process for distributing assets and closing the estate: summary probate administration.
While summary administration is quicker and less complex than formal probate, there are still many requirements and responsibilities for those charged with navigating the process. There may also be questions about the availability or appropriateness of summary probate administration that will need to be addressed before beginning the process.
At Farshchian Law, our Florida probate attorneys help surviving spouses, beneficiaries, and petitioners determine whether summary administration is an option or whether formal administration is required. If summary administration is the most favorable course of action, we can handle all aspects of the probate process and bring matters to a swift and trouble-free conclusion. If a formal administration is the best course of action, we have the expertise to handle that type of probate process as well.
We assist petitioners, surviving spouses and heirs will all the steps involved in the summary administration process, including:
- Gathering estate assets
- Identifying which estate assets must go through the probate process
- Preparing the Petition for Summary Administration
- Providing the proper notices to the estate’s beneficiaries
- Preparing the Affidavit of Heirs and other court required documents
- Filing the death certificate of will
- Preparing disclaimers of interest in property
- Distributing all assets to beneficiaries
- Facilitating the transfer of title once probate is complete
- Assisting in the sale of probate property
Which Estates Qualify For Summary Administration?
To qualify for summary administration, the decedent’s last will and testament must not direct a formal probate administration under Chapter 733 of the Florida Statutes. If the will does in fact require formal administration, the estate will not qualify for summary administration.
If the will is silent as to the type of administration, or in the event of an intestate estate (i.e., when the deceased died without a will), summary administration is an option so long as:
- The value of the entire estate subject to administration, less the value of property exempt from the claims of creditors, is less than $75,000; OR
- The deceased has been dead for more than two years.
Property exempt from the claims of creditors, which can be of any value and is not included in the $75,000 limit on summary administration, includes:
- The decedent’s homestead property (i.e., primary residence).
- Household furniture, furnishings, and appliances in the decedent’s usual place of abode up to a net value of $20,000 at the date of death.
- Two motor vehicles that do not, individually as to either such motor vehicle, have a gross vehicle weight in excess of 15,000 pounds, held in the decedent’s name and regularly used by the decedent or members of the decedent’s immediate family as their personal motor vehicles.
- All qualified 529 college tuition programs including, but not limited to, Florida Prepaid College Trust Fund advance payment contracts and Florida Prepaid College Trust Fund participation agreements.
- Death benefits paid to teachers and school administrators.
Therefore, a deceased individual may leave a homestead property (i.e., primary residence) worth $1 million and the heirs of the deceased’s estate may still take advantage of summary administration since homestead is property is considered to be exempt from the $75,000 summary administration threshold.
What Makes Summary Administration Different From Formal Administration?
Perhaps the most significant difference between summary probate administration and formal administration is that the court does not need to appoint a personal representative in a summary administration proceeding. Instead, any beneficiary or the individual nominated by the decedent as their personal representative can petition the court to directly order the distribution of the decedent’s assets to those entitled to it under the will, but the petition to open the estate must be signed and verified by the surviving spouse (if any). If the deceased did not leave a will (or a valid will), the distribution will be made according to Florida’s laws of intestate succession.
Other documents that we typically file in a summary probate administration include the deceased’s death certificate and original will (if any). We will also draft a petition for homestead determination, an affidavit of heirs, an affidavit of no estate tax due, and other documents required in a summary administration proceeding. At the end of the summary administration process, the court will issue an Order of Summary Administration which authorizes the assets to be distributed to the rightful beneficiaries.
Summary administration is typically a faster court process than a formal probate administration. While formal probate can take up to a year or more (depending on the nature of the estate and its assets), a summary probate administration may often be completed in approximately six to eight weeks.
Determining Whether Summary Probate Administration Is The Best Approach
One of the many reasons to consult with an experienced Florida probate attorney after a loved one passes is to determine which of the estate assets have to go through probate and what type of probate administration makes the most sense given the estate assets and beneficiaries. Just because an estate is qualified to go through summary probate administration, it does not necessarily mean that it should.
Many factors go into deciding whether summary or formal probate administration is better suited to an estate and its beneficiaries. These include:
- The value and nature of the estate’s assets
- The presence of multiple creditors of the estate
- Multiple beneficiaries
- Pending litigation (such as a wrongful death lawsuit)
- The likelihood of contests, objections, or disputes
- The short sale of an estate property
Questions About The Summary Probate Process? Contact Farshchian Law Today
No matter what type of Florida probate process is involved, the many legal requirements and responsibilities can be confusing for even the most savvy of individuals. At Farshchian Law, we use our experience and personal commitment to guide you through every aspect of the summary administration process, ensuring that you understand your obligations and providing you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have seasoned counsel by your side.
Please call us at (305) 901-5628 or (239) 935-8599 or email us at Info@JFRealEstateLaw.com for a free consultation and to learn more about how Farshchian Law can assist you with the summary probate process.