Upon someone’s passing, probate is a court-supervised process in which a court will verify the validity of the decedent’s will and how they should distribute the estate to the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries.
It is important to know when probate is required under Florida law, and whether there are feasible manners to avoid it. Keep reading to find out the answers.
Is Probate Required When Someone Dies Without a Will in Florida?
If the decedent died owning assets titled solely in his or her name, these assets must be distributed upon death – regardless of the existence of specific provisions in a will to direct the distribution.
Therefore, when someone dies without a will in Florida, the decedent’s estate will be distributed under Florida intestacy laws. The term “intestacy” is used to describe a situation wherein someone dies without having a valid will or not having a will at all.
When is Probate Necessary in Florida? – In Detail
Determining whether probate is necessary to administer an estate involves several factors, such as the size of the decedent’s estate, the complexity of the assets that comprise the estate subject to probate, and whether the decedent has directed specific assets to designated beneficiaries.
Disposition Without Administration
As its name suggests, disposition of personal property without administration involves no probate upon someone’s death. Florida Statutes §735.301 provide that “no administration shall be required, or formal proceedings instituted upon the estate of a decedent leaving only:
- Personal property exempt under the provisions of s. 732.402
- Personal property exempt from the claims of creditors under the Constitution of Florida, and
- Nonexempt personal property the value of which does not exceed the sum of the amount of preferred funeral expenses and reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses of the last 60 days of the last illness”
Under Florida Statutes §732.402, exempt property consists of:
- Household furniture, furnishings, and appliances in the decedent’s usual place of abode up to a net value of $20,000 as of the date of death
- Two motor vehicles (as defined by the same statute)
- All qualified tuition programs authorized by s. 529 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986
- All qualified educator death benefits (under Fla. Stat. §112.1915)
Therefore, if the total value of the decedent’s estate is particularly small and comprised exclusively of exempt property, it may qualify for disposition without administration. Typically, this type of administration procedure can be completed within a few weeks.
Summary Administration vs. Formal Administration
If a deceased person’s estate does not qualify for disposition without administration, it may be administered under summary administration or formal administration.
If the total value of the decedent’s estate subject to probate does not exceed $75,000 or the decedent has been dead for more than two years, the estate may qualify for summary administration.
An expedited form of Florida probate, summary administration usually takes only a few weeks to conclude. However, If the total value of the decedent’s estate subject to probate exceeds $75,000 or the decedent has been dead for less than two years, the estate will be formally administered.
Formal administration involves several formalities, such as the appointment of a personal representative, the issuance of notice to all interest persons who may have a claim to the decedent’s estate (including creditors), and a set of different procedures.
If the case involves incapacitated heirs or beneficiaries who are physically or mentally unable to handle their own affairs, a court may also determine guardianships or conservatorships.