Florida’s Summary Administration for Small Estates in a Nutshell
Florida’s Summary Administration is a probate process that is simplified for small estates within the state of Florida. Before we discuss what it is, it’s important to know a few details about the probate process, and how Formal Administration differs from Summary Administration to provide some contrast and understanding.
Note: if you already understand Florida’s probate process and you’re just looking for the appropriate forms, you can find the appropriate Florida Summary Administration Package in the US Legal Forms library.
What is Probate?
Definition and Overview
Probate has two primary definitions, both of which are simultaneously true and interchangeable based on which phase of the process is currently being undertaken. 1.) The process by which a court determines and proves the validity of a Will; and 2.) The process in which the estate of the decedent is legally administered.
Probate is a very old word, with Latin roots, wherein the definition is even broader. However, we will focus on the aforementioned definitions within this article.
The process of probate follows the death of a decedent. The legal proceedings of probate vary from state to state. In all cases, a lawyer is needed to guide the Executor (also known as the Personal Representative (PR)) through the process and to help protect the assets of the estate from unnecessary liability.
The assets which undergo probate are independently held; whereas assets held jointly, within a trust, or with a properly designated beneficiary are not (in Florida) held to the same standard of probate proceedings.
Florida Probate Timeline
How long does probate take in Florida? Due to bad press, this is one of the most commonly asked questions. The answer can vary, however, the most common answer is one to three years under a Formal Administration. Whereas a Summary Administration may take anywhere from three months to one year, depending on the circumstances.
Formal Administration vs. Summary Administration
One piece of information that is very commonly requested by Florida residents is the average cost of Florida Summary Administration attorney fees. The fees for an attorney in a Formal Administration are often within the range of 3-5%. Whereas within a Summary Administration, the cost can be as low as $250.00. The cost will vary from lawyer to lawyer, but cheaper doesn’t always mean better.
Because Summary Administration is a special case, we’ll first discuss the timeline and general overview of Formal Administration to better understand the difference.
The first stage of probate is for the individual petitioning to be the Executor (PR) to enlist the services of an attorney to file and open the probate, if it’s necessary. From here, the administration proceeding begins, and the judge can grant or deny Letters of Administration. The Letter of Administration in Florida grants the PR the authority to handle matters on behalf of the estate. After which, the PR will obtain an EIN (tax number) and checking account for the estate, as well as transfer brokerage accounts, if applicable.
Next is the process of Marshalling Assets, to provide the court with an Estate Inventory. This includes a list of the assets of the estate, along with their value. Additionally, this includes taking control of the assets and account details; if, for example, the decedent had a driver and allowed the driver to use the vehicle as their own when not working, it would be important to regain physical possession of the vehicle, as well as maintain its insurance policy.
Creditors are another important factor within the probate process. If the decedent had debt, the estate is liable for this debt; albeit, with a statute of limitations. The administration attorney will publish a notice to creditors, typically in the local newspaper, however, the creditors could also be notified directly. The creditors have 30 days to file a claim after receiving the receipt notice, or 90 days to file a claim after a notice was publicly published. However, if known creditors were not notified, they have up to two years to file a claim.
A few more important points:
- Account bookkeeping, known as Accountings, ensures that all parties involved have a clear understanding of the financial processes and transactions that have taken place; this process can be waived
- Taxes must be filed on behalf of the decedent and the estate; for example, forms 1041, 706, etc.
- Administration expenses should be paid prior to disbursement to beneficiaries
Finally, the PR must obtain a discharge of duties from the probate court, once all procedures, costs, disbursements, and documents have been filed, processed, and paid.
What is Summary Administration in Florida?
Florida Summary Administration: when to file Notice to Creditors
Noticing creditors in a Summary Administration is tricky, as the prerequisites of a Summary Administration are: 1.) The decedent died more than two years ago, thereby exceeding the creditors’ statute of limitations for filing claims on the estate; or 2.) The estate is valued (excluding non-probate items) at less than $75,000 (as of July 2021), and that the decedent has no debt liability.
To summarize, the Summary Administration Florida statute of limitations grants a maximum window for creditors to file a claim on the estate. Once the two-year window has closed, liability is voided. Alternatively, if the estate’s decedent is in debt and you haven’t followed a lawyer’s Summary Administration Florida checklist, the beneficiaries become liable for this debt.
Under Florida law, homestead property does not contribute to the value of the estate; it’s protected under the Floridian Constitution. However, it’s incredibly important due to this law that a contract is created for the distribution of the homestead to the beneficiaries.
How to file a Summary Administration in Florida
The administration process is started by the designated PR, or a family member who may be inheriting the property. Whoever it is must file a Petition for Summary Administration. The petition must outline that the estate qualifies for Summary Administration, the assets which are to be probated, and lists the beneficiaries who are known. Each known beneficiary must sign the petition, as well as from the surviving spouse, if applicable. What happens after the petition for summary administration in Florida?
If accepted, the court order of summary administration in Florida does not appoint a PR. Instead, the court issues a court order which releases the property to the entities or individuals listed in the original petition. These individuals or entities are known as “petitioners.”
How to prepare a Summary Administration Petition in Florida
We’ve already discussed filing the petition itself, yet there are a number of documents that must be submitted along with the petition. The Florida Summary Administration forms include:
- Petition for Summary Administration
- Original Will, if the decedent died testate
- Order Admitting Will to Probate, if required
- Proof of Payment of:
- Funeral Expenses
- Last Medical Expenses
- Nursing Home Expenses Incurred by the Decedent
- Death Certificate
- Order of Summary Administration (Completed by the Probate Court Judge)
The petitioners listed in the Order of Summary Administration in Florida will then transfer any remaining assets to the beneficiaries. In addition to this, they should also send creditors a notice of administration from Florida. If there are any outstanding debts that are unknown to the petitioners, it’s beneficial to know this information prior to disbursement.
The Summary of Administration Form
The form itself, found here, is approximately 35 pages in length. Don’t let this intimidate you, it includes the entire package of forms mentioned above, including a Notice to Creditors, as well as instructions to assist you.
How to fill out a Petition for Summary Administration
The sample petition for Summary Administration in Florida is thorough, and allows for up to six signatories. It also grants enough signature space for almost twenty heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors. There is also a space for payments and distributions requested by the petitioner(s) to individuals or entities otherwise unlisted. It’s required to seek out unrevoked Wills or codicils, if none are provided the disbursement and estate management may fall into the hands of the State, depending on the circumstances. You’ll also be required to list the decedent’s assets and their respective value within the form. This form may also be seen as a Florida Small Estate Affidavit, in specific contexts, given that the contents must be accurate to the best of the petitioner’s knowledge, and they must have done so with due diligence.
The example order of Summary Administration for Florida is a template which the judge will complete upon review and approval of the petition.
The Florida probate forms for Summary Administration can be hard to begin after the loss of a loved one. However, the sooner you begin, the better.
While Summary Administration can seem like an overwhelming task, it can be simplified with the right documents on hand, and an attorney at your side to guide you through the process.
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We wish you the best of luck in handling your affairs, and we hope this article was helpful and clear. If you have any questions, visit our Help center to read FAQs or contact our support team by calling, creating a ticket, or writing a question in the live chat.