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Does Florida Have a Small Estate Affidavit Process?

The general answer is no, or at least not in the way that is helpful to most families.

We usually get this question when someone dies without a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, IRA or 401K. When the family is trying to claim these funds upon the death of a loved one, the financial company may send a claim form with a statement about a "small estate affidavit" that would be necessary in order for the family to receive the assets. Unfortunately, Florida does not have a small estate affidavit process, with one exception, which means the family will more than likely need to consult a probate attorney to help gain control of the assets.  

Florida does have a Disposition without Administration procedure, but this is generally used in very specific situations, typically where the decedent's funeral expenses are unpaid. Here, the family can go to the local probate court and file an Petition to release funds held in a bank (typically) so that the petitioner can be reimbursed for paying the decedent's funeral bill. An example of the Disposition without Administration is as follows:

Mom died with a bank account of $3,000 in her own, individual name. The bank will not give the family access to this bank account. The decedent's son paid for mom's funeral expenses of $4,000 out of his own pocket.  With the proper petition to the court, the court will order the bank to pay the $3,000 to the son to reimburse him for paying the funeral bill.  Here is Pinellas County's petition.

If the decedent had multiple assets and no one needs to be reimbursed for funeral expenses, then it is possible that the family can go through a Summary Administration. An attorney is likely helpful in this process due to the complexity - nothing is easy in the Florida probate process. The Summary Administration process is close to the small estate affidavit but it is not as easy as you would think. We frequently have families come to us for help after trying to do a Summary Administration without legal help.

To learn more about the difference between the disposition without administration/summary administration, I have written more on the types of Probate in Florida that would be helpful if you cannot get control of an assets upon someone's death. This may or may not mean you need to hire an attorney upon the death of your loved one.

If your loved one has passed and you are trying to access their assets, our free guide to Navigating the Florida Probate Process will be very helpful. This guide reviews the Florida probate process from start to finish.

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D. Rep DeLoach III
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