What is Florida’s Summary Administration Probate?
In the State of Florida the Probate process will generally be governed by one of two tracks. Some estates qualify for a Summary Administration. This process is much faster and usually far less expensive than formal probate. Florida Law provides that an Estate can qualify for Summary Administration if either:
- The total value of the estate is less than $75,000.00 or
- The decedent has been passed away for over two years.
So if either of these criteria are satisfied, your estate may be better suited for a Summary Administration. In determining whether or not your estate will qualify for the Summary Administration procedure remember that some property valuation is exempt. By far the biggest exemption is a homestead property. So for example, if John Doe passed away and his estate contained the following items (1) a home valued at $300,000.00 (2) a bank account with $70,000.00 in assets, as long as the property was designated a homestead at the time of his passing, the value of the home would be exempt for purposes of calculating qualification into the summary administration process.
What are the Steps for Summary Administration in Florida
Step One: Gather the Necessary Information and Documents: Unfortunately Probate is a process that always comes along with stress of losing a loved one. If your estate does qualify for Florida’s Summary Administration (see above) then the first step is to gather the required paperwork. If the deceased passed away with a Will we will need the original of the Last Will and Testament. We will also need an original death certificate. If you don’t have the death certificate, an original can be ordered from the State of Florida or from the funeral home. After we have all the required documents we will work with you to identify all the beneficiaries of the estate along with the assets. We will also help you identify whether any creditor claims exist against the estate.
Step Two: The Petition and Notice: After obtaining all the relevant documentation and information the next phase of a Summary Administration deals with opening up a case in the appropriate Florida Court and submitting various initial filings. These will vary depending on the case but typically include: (1) Petition for Summary Administration (2) Notice of Filing Confidential Information (3) Notice of Filing Death Certificate (4) Notice of Filing Original Will (if any) (5) Proof of Service of Petition for Summary Administration (6) Petition to Admit Will to Probate.
Step Three: The Determination of Homestead and Order of Summary Administration: After gathering the required information and opening up the probate case it is critical to determine whether any homestead property exists. If so, this can pass outside of the Probate process and allow family member beneficiaries to receive the continued benefits that come with a homestead designation. Prior to the Judge issuing an Order of Summary Administration directing the Probate assets to heirs or beneficiaries there is also a period during which objections may be made and disputes settled. At the conclusion of the notice period and after the last Will is properly admitted to probate (if any) then an Order for Summary Administration will be issued directing distribution of assets.
Checklist for Beginning a Summary Administration in Florida
- Locate the Original Death Certificate. You will need to provide this to the Clerk of Court in the appropriate County.
- Last four of the decedent’s social security number (will be on death certificate).
- Identify the location of the decedent’s domicile or property at the time of death (determines venue).
- Make sure that the Petitioner actually has an interest in the estate.
- Identify whether Probate proceedings have also been initiated in a foreign state.
- Gather the names and addresses of other beneficiaries or heirs.
- Identify whether there is a will:
- If so provide the original to the Clerk of Court in the appropriate county and retain an original.
- If so, make sure the Will does not require administration pursuant to a Formal Probate proceeding.
- If so identify whether the will has a self-proving affidavit. If it does not you must have it attested to by a witness or the designated PR to be admitted to probate.
- Make sure the Will complies with the execution requirements under Florida law.
- Identify all assets of the decedent: Bank accounts, real property etc…
- Identify if property was determined homestead. (Check the County Property Appraiser Website).
- Determine whether there are any creditor claims against the estate.
- Identify the proposed distribution (either via will or through the intestate rules of succession).
Relevant Florida Statute: Fla. Stat. §735.2063
The Pros and Cons of Summary Administration
While Summary Administration is recommended for most of our Clients who can qualify their estate’s through it, the process is unique and has some advantages and disadvantages that need to be understood. First the pros:
Speed: Some Formal Administration Probates, depending on the number of creditors and the speed of the Personal Representative, can take anywhere between five months and 15 months or longer. On the other hand, a Florida Summary Administration can be accomplished in a matter of weeks.
Costs: Florida’s Summary Administration doesn’t require all of the same notices and formalities as a Formal Administration. For that reason it is much less expensive to Probate through this Process.
Despite the speed and cost-effectiveness of a Summary Administration Procedure, it should not be used in every situation.
No Personal Representative Power: In Florida’s Formal Administration the estate will appoint a Personal Representative who will obtain the power to administer the estate through Letters of Administration. These powers are important and often necessary in order to (1) obtain bank or investment information (2) obtain life insurance (3) deal with insurance companies or mortgage companies (4) sue on behalf of the estate.
Not available if unpaid creditor claims exist: As a petitioner for a Summary Administration you will have to represent to the Court that either all creditor claims are barred by operation of law or that provision for payment has been made. Otherwise a Summary Administration lacks a creditor payment mechanism to efficiently pay off debts of the estate with estate assets. For that reason, for indebted estates, Summary Administration is not always ideal.
Creditor Issues for Florida Summary Administration
In Florida a Petitioner seeking distribution of an estate under the Summary Administration process is required to provide formal notice to known creditors. In addition, after you have obtained an Order of Summary Administration distributing the assets of the estate Florida law provides that you may publish notice to creditors. If you elect to do the publication, unknown creditors have only a limited time to file claims against the estate, afterwards all claims are barred. It is our experience that Title Companies will sometimes request that this publication be made although it is not a requirement to get distribution under a Florida Summary Administration.
Relevant Florida Statute: Fla. Stat. §735.2063
Florida Requirements for the Petition for Summary Administration
- Must be filed by a person with interest (either a beneficiary or person nominated as Personal Representative or an heir at law).
- It must be signed by a surviving spouse if there is one.
- It should also be signed by the other beneficiaries/heirs unless they will receive their full distributed share.
- You must provide all heirs/beneficiaries with formal notice under the Florida Probate Rules.
- You must provide notice to known creditors.
- Some Judges in Florida require evidence of a paid funeral bill.