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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. 

In order for the family/heirs to take control of a decedent's probate assets, Florida generally has three types of probate to discuss:

  • Formal Probate Administration: Full blown probate, going to court, need an attorney, generally used under most probates, taking 6-9 months under most circumstances.
  • Summary Probate:  Reserved for estates under $75,000 in very simple estates.  An attorney is advised in these situations due to complexity. A court order is also done.
  • Disposition without Administration: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.

In all three types of Florida probate, the court process is involved - some probates processes are easier than others. But there is no form or affidavit in Florida that an heir can sign that will give that heir legal rights to estate assets - only the Court can sign an order to this effect.

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.

If you asked this, you may want to know:

D. Rep DeLoach III
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Estate Planning and Board Certified Elder Law Attorney