Probate Administration in Florida

Life can be a whirlwind after the death of a loved one, especially when one is unfamiliar with the legal system and what is required to get assets properly transferred to beneficiaries.

We began our series to help you get through this difficult time with our previous post discussing “here to begin”. This article will serve as a guide to the different types of probates in Florida and the requirements for each type of proceeding.

Formal Administration

  • Required where probate assets exceed $75,000 (not including homestead)
  • May be required on estates valued at less than $75,000 if:
    • Decedent had outstanding creditors or debt
    • A lawsuit needs to be filed on behalf of the decedent’s estate (such as a wrongful death claim)
    • Decedent had outstanding issues at death that need a court-appointed representative to resolve (e.g., litigation pending at death; continuation of a closely held business, etc.)
  • Can be testate (decedent had a last will and testament) or intestate (decedent had no will)
  • Must be filed with the court through a Florida attorney
  • Personal Representative (executor) is appointed by the court
  • Beneficiaries formally served with a Notice of Administration advising they are beneficiaries
  • Notice to Creditors is published twice in local newspaper, and all known creditors must be sent a copy
  • Creditors have ninety days from date of first publication to file a claim
  • Inventory of all assets filed with the court and provided to all beneficiaries
  • Valid claims are paid out of estate assets
  • Formal Accounting required, unless waived by the beneficiaries
  • Administration lasts between four to twelve months depending upon the circumstances

Summary Administration

  • Can be utilized if probate assets valued at $75,000 or less (not including homestead); OR
  • Can be utilized where decedent has been dead for two or more years (regardless of value of estate)
  • Often utilized where the decedent’s home is the only probate asset
  • Can be testate (decedent had a last will and testament) or intestate (decedent had no will)
  • Must be filed with the court through a Florida attorney
  • No Personal Representative is appointed
  • No Notice to Creditors has to be published, but known creditors must be paid out of estate assets upon court order
  • Remaining assets distributed directly to beneficiaries upon court order
  • Can be concluded within a couple weeks depending on court availability

Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration

  • Can be used where property consists of:
    • Household furnishings and appliances valued up to $20,000
    • Up to two motor vehicles regularly used by decedent or immediate family members as personal autos
    • Personal property exempt from creditor claims under Florida Constitution
    • Non-exempt personal property (bank account, certificate of deposit, etc.) up to $6,000.00, which does not exceed the amount of either the decedent’s funeral bill or last medical expenses
  • Can be testate (decedent had a last will and testament) or intestate (decedent had no will)
  • Can be filed directly with the clerk without an attorney
  • Assets distributed by court order to person who paid funeral or medical expenses (proof of payment must be provided to the clerk)

Of course, we hope that everyone plans ahead and takes the steps necessary to avoid probate (which we will also be discussing in a later blog post). But if your loved one does not properly plan, it is good to know that there are alternatives to the formal probate administration, which is often time-consuming and expensive.

Even if a formal administration is required, however, don’t allow another lawyer to tell you that all fees are statutory; in fact, all fees (attorney and personal representative) are subject to agreement with the personal representative or beneficiaries.