If an individual dies owning assets in his or her name alone (“probatable assets”), a probate court proceeding must often take place to determine who is to receive the assets and how the assets will be distributed. This is true even if the deceased left a Last Will & Testament. The Will is given effect through the probate court proceedings. Some assets that have a payable on-death beneficiary or are held jointly avoid probate completely and are considered “non-probate” assets.
Probate means “prove.” One must prove to the probate court that the Will is valid (if there is a Will), that the heirs are properly identified, and that all creditors who are required to be paid have been paid. Only after the required “proofs” are made can an heir receive his or her inheritance.
How To Qualify for Summary Administration in Florida
A common type of probate procedure in Florida is called Summary Administration. This type of probate is often less expensive and time-consuming than a Formal Administration, and it is an option only in two situations:
- When the probatable assets are valued at less than $75,000.00, not including exempt assets. Homestead property (i.e., your primary residence) is considered an exempt asset so it is not part of the $75,000 valuation threshold;
- If the deceased has passed away more than two years ago (in which case, most creditor claims are barred).
Gathering the Necessary Information for a Summary Administration
For a Summary Administration proceeding, the following documents are required:
- Original or certified copy of the death certificate;
- The original Last Will & Testament (if the deceased left one); and
- Proof of the paid funeral bill (if the deceased passed away less than two years ago).
The attorney handling the probate estate must also provide the following information to the probate court:
- Names and addresses of all beneficiaries of the estate.
- If any such person is under the age of 18, state the name of that child’s parents or guardian.
- A legal description and street address of any real estate owned solely by the decedent.
- Information relating to whether an estate tax return needs to be filed.
- A detailed description of bank accounts in the decedent’s name alone including the name of the bank, the account number and type (i.e. CD, money market, checking), and the approximate balance in the accounts.
- A detailed description of securities (stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and partnerships) owned by the decedent alone, including the name of the company (and addresses if mutual funds or partnership), the Certificate Number, the number of shares, and their approximate value.
Drafting and Filing Documents With the Probate Court
Once the probate attorney receives the above-referenced information and any other details needed to open the probate estate, he or she will prepare the Petition for Summary Administration and obtain the necessary signatures to file the petition. The attorney will also prepare several other legal documents, including the following:
- An Affidavit of Heirs (if there is no Will). This affidavit provides detailed information about the heirs of the deceased.
- A Petition for Homestead Determination (if homestead property is part of the estate).
- An Affidavit of No Estate Tax due (if there is in fact no estate taxes).
- A Notice to Creditors (if required for the estate). The creditor notification period is for 90 days.
- Proposed orders for the judge to sign which describe the assets and how assets are to be apportioned amongst heirs and creditors.
The probate attorney’s role also includes filing the relevant petitions and affidavits with the probate court, as well as the death certificate, Will, proof of creditor payments, paid funeral bill, and other required documentation. So long as all the required information and documentation is provided to the probate court, the judge will then grant the order of summary administration (and order for homestead determination if applicable) so that the assets of the estate can be distributed to the heirs and the estate can be closed out.
The attorney will also obtain certified copies of the probate court orders. The certified copies of the orders are recorded with the county recorder’s office so that the name of the heirs will now show as the owners of record. Certified copies of the order of summary administration are also provided to asset holders such as banks, mutual fund companies, etc.
How Long Does a Summary Administration Take?
Most summary administrations can be completed within one to three months. This time period may sometimes be longer if there are a lot of assets or heirs involved, if there are creditor claims to be resolved, or if the 90-day creditor publication period is required.
How Farshchian Law Can Help
Since probate law can be complex, it is vital to secure the services of a qualified probate attorney. We work hard to ensure that all legal requirements are met and that and assets are distributed to heirs as quickly and efficiently as possible. For a free consultation on the summary administration or formal administration process, please call us at (800) 604-1871 or email us at Probate@JFRealEstateLaw.com. We provide probate, estate planning, and real estate legal services throughout the State of Florida.