The Probate describes the court-supervised procedure by which a deceased person’s estate—the assets they leave behind—are gathered, inventoried, and distributed to their heirs and beneficiaries. Given all the moving parts and protocols involved, the Probate Process can often be complex, costly, and time-consuming—but not always.
Depending on the circumstances, Florida provides a simplified probate process known as “Summary Administration” that is comparatively easier and faster than the more common “Formal Administration.” Nevertheless, the experienced Probate Attorneys from Jurado & Associates, P.A. can help make the process even simpler.
What is the Florida Probate Process?
To understand Summary Administration, it helps to know the Probate Process generally. In its most basic terms, probate is the judicial procedure in which the assets of a deceased person (known as the decedent) are distributed. The word “probate” comes from the Latin verb “examining” or “proving,” because the goal is to “prove” the existence of a valid Will that established how the assets will be distributed.
The decedent’s Will also designates the person serving as the “executor” or “personal representative” of the estate, whose duties are to carry out the decedent’s wishes in accordance with the Will. In the absence of an existing or valid Will, the court will appoint someone else to serve in this role, and the decedent’s assets will instead by distributed under Florida’s intestacy rules (i.e., the rules for what to do with assets left behind by someone without a Will).
Among the many responsibilities of a personal representative are filing the necessary paperwork and forms with the court, gathering and accounting for the assets, and making sure all debts and taxes are paid. Once all assets are equitably and properly distributed, and no disputes or challenges remain, the estate can then be closed, and the personal representative is discharged from their duties.
Although probate is undertaken in court, the role of the probate judge is typically supervisory, such as validating the Will and ensuring compliance with all probate rules.
When Does Summary Administration Come in?
As the name suggests, Summary Administration is a simpler and quicker version of the routine Probate Process described above. Estates are eligible for Summary Administration in one of two circumstances:
- The value of the deceased’s Florida estate—including real property, bank accounts, etc.—does not exceed $75,000. This limit does not include the value of their homestead property: Thus, if the decedent had a homestead property worth $250,000 and all remaining assets totaled $60,000, their estate would be eligible for summary administration.
- The decedent died more than two years, regardless of the value of their assets, provided there was no prior probate proceeding.
What If the Decedent Had Debts?
While all the Florida Probate Code require that the decedent’s debts be paid, this requirement differs with Summary Administration. That is because Florida law prohibits creditors from claiming a debt owed by the deceased two years after it was due. Therefore, if the estate is undergoing Summary Administration on the basis that the decedent died over two years ago, creditors are essentially locked out unless they had first asserted their claims during that two-year period.
Otherwise, if the estate is qualified by virtue of its value of $75,000 or less, the personal representative must still follow the usual protocol of locating any creditors the deceased may have had (usually by publishing an official notice in a local newspaper). Creditors must then be provided with a copy of the request for Summary Administration and informed of how they can assert claims against the estate if payment is possible.
If the estate does not have enough assets to cover all the debts—which is likelier in the case of Summary Administration—then the assets are declared “insolvent” and creditors are simply not paid.
How Long Does Summary Administration Take?
By definition, Summary Administration is much faster than the typical Probate Process. The personal representative must file a petition with the probate court initiating the process, which must include a complete list of the deceased’s property and assets, the value of each asset and the name of the beneficiary to which the asset will be distributed. If the court approves the petition, it will issue an Order of Summary Administration and release the assets to their respective beneficiaries accordingly.
Depending on how small the estate is, Summary Administration can take as little as one week to complete, although the usual length is one to two months—compared to three to twelve months for the typical Formal Administration Probate Process.
Hire a Trustworthy Probate Attorney Today
A summary administration in Florida appears to be a less expensive and less time-consuming process than a formal administration. It is not appropriate in all situations. Contact a probate attorney in Florida to see if is possible if there are heirs who cannot be located, if the estate has multiple creditors or if it is insolvent. Our attorneys can help you with probate and the Florida Summary Administration process. Give us a call at (305) 921-0976 or send us an email [email protected].