Probate estate procedure may vary from state to state, but many states have similar laws that allow a simplified estate procedure if the value of a deceased’s estate falls below a certain amount. Florida is no exception. The simplified estate procedure in Florida is called Summary Administration.
What is Summary Administration?
If an individual passes away leaving behind assets solely in his or her own name, these assets will often have to go through the probate process. Probate is a court-supervised proceeding that involves submitting a petition to the court seeking to distribute a deceased’s assets as per the instructions in their Last Will & Testament (or as per Florida law if they did not leave a Will). Ultimately, once the probate process is completed, the deceased’s assets will be distributed amongst their beneficiaries.
A Summary Administration is the shortened form of probate in Florida. It is often also less costly than the other type of Florida probate, which is called a Formal Administration.
How Does a Probate Estate Qualify for Summary Administration?
An estate in Florida may be eligible for Summary Administration in one of two circumstances:
- The value of the deceased’s estate subject to probate is less than $75,000. However, this limit does not include the value of the protected homestead property of the deceased (i.e., their primary residence). For example, heirs may still initiate a Summary Administration if their deceased loved one passed away with $50,000 in the bank and a homestead property valued at $250,000 because the value of the homestead property is not included in the $75,000 Summary Administration threshold.
- An estate may also be qualified for Summary Administration if the deceased died more than two years, regardless of the value of their assets.
What If the Deceased Left Behind Debts?
Florida law prohibits unsecured creditors from collecting on a debt owed by the deceased if it has been more than two years since the deceased passed away. Examples of unsecured creditors are a credit card company, medical provider, etc. A secured creditor is one that has some type of lien to secure the debt, such as a mortgage lender. If their debt goes unpaid, secured creditors can seek to collect on their debt by foreclosing on the collateral (i.e., the real property) even if it has been more than two years since the deceased passed away. Most creditors however are automatically barred from bringing a claim against a probate estate if the summary administration of the estate occurred more than two years after the death of the deceased.
If the deceased passed away less than two years ago and the estate is qualified by virtue of its value, the person applying to the court for summary administration – normally a spouse or another family member – must, in good faith, seek to locate any creditors the deceased may have had. Creditors must be provided with a copy of Petition for Summary Administration, and they must be informed of how they can assert a claim against the estate.
The estate may also be required to publish an official notice to unknown creditors in a local newspaper. Creditors have three months from the publication date of the Notice to Creditors to bring forth a claim in the probate estate.
Fees For The Simplified Estate Process In Florida
The court filing fee for a Florida Summary Administration varies from county to county but it is typically around $346. Other costs are involved as well, such as a filing a Notice to Creditors. Costs typically do not exceed $500 in total.
Attorney’s fees for a Florida Summary Administration are typically charged on a flat fee basis. In some circumstances, they may even be paid from the sale of the probate property. For more on how attorney’s fees are determined in a Summary Administration, click here.
How Long Does the Florida Summary Administration Process?
The Summary Administration process begins with the filing of a Petition for Summary Administration in the probate court. The surviving spouse must sign and verify the petition if the deceased was married. The other beneficiaries do not necessarily have to join in the probate, but those who do join in have to be formally informed that the petition has been filed with the probate court. No executor or personal representative is appointed in a Summary Administration.
The Petition for Summary Administration must include, amongst other items, a complete list of the deceased’s property and assets, the value of each asset and the name of the beneficiary to receive each asset.
The court examines the petition and issues an Order of Summary Administration if all probate formalities have been followed and other required documents have been filed. The probate court’s order releases the property of the deceased to the beneficiaries of the estate.
A summary administration can typically take around 1.5 months to 3 months to complete, but may take longer if there are a large number of heirs, if not all the heirs cooperate, or if there are creditor disputes to resolve.
Another Alternative for Small Estates
Small probate estates may also qualify for Florida’s “Disposition of Personal Property without Administration” process. This option is available to estates if the entire property of the deceased is either exempted from creditor claims or the value of the property does not exceed the funeral and medical expenses incurred in the last 60 days of the deceased’s life. The “Disposition of Personal Property without Administration” process is not a court process but is instead initiated with the clerk of the court. It cannot be used if the Florida probate estate contains real property.
How Farshchian Law Can Help
A Summary Administration in Florida is often a less costly and less time-consuming process than a Formal Administration. However, it is not appropriate in all situations, such as if the estate has creditor claims to resolve or a large number of heirs. Once we learn the facts about your loved one’s probate estate, we can advise if Summary Administration is a viable option for you. For a free consultation on Summary Administration or to learn more about our probate services, call us at (800) 604-1871, or email us at Probate@JFRealEstateLaw.com. We handle probate, real estate, and estate planning matters throughout the State of Florida.