Florida law requires formal probate proceedings for any estate worth more than $75,000. If the estate is worth less than $75,000, or if the person has been deceased for over two years, it may qualify for a shorter version of probate called Summary Administration.
How to File for Simplified Probate in Florida
Summary Administration is a probate shortcut that allows survivors to receive a deceased relative's property more quickly. The probate court waives many formalities and notices that must be given during formal administration, shortening the timeframe for heirs to get their inheritances.
To create a summary administration, you must:
- Petitioning the court. You must file a document called a Petition for Summary Administration with the court. The document should include a copy of the Will, a list of the deceased person's assets (and their estimated value), a list of who inherits each asset, and a declaration that the estate qualifies for summary administration.
- Asking heirs sign the request. The petition must be signed by the surviving spouse and all beneficiaries. If any beneficiary cannot be located or doesn't consent to the petition, the court may require you to serve notice on the heirs.
- Notifying potential creditors. When you post a public notice of administration, creditors have three months to try to make a claim on any debts. This isn't necessary if the person has been deceased for over two years, since creditors are barred against bringing any further claims after two years have passed. Importantly, if there are exisiting creditors, the summary administration must make sure the creditors are paid before heirs get any remaining funds.
When is a Summary Administration Not Available?
Summary administrations are not a good option, or are not available at all, in a number of scenarios, such as:
- The decedent had creditors that must be paid. Essentially, the summary administration is not a good way to address estates with creditors under most circumstances.
- When the assets are not known - essentially, you must have almost perfect knowledge of the decedent's assets to have a summary administration.
- As an example, Dad passes away and leaves his one bank account to his son. The son cannot find any information on the account and the bank will not share information with the son. The bank tells the son - you need letters of administration but does not tell the son what is in the account. Because the son cannot get any knowledge of the account, the summary adminstration will not be available as the judge will need to know the account value and number before entering a court order.
- The heirs do not get along. All heirs must sign off on the petition for summary administration, so if one heir cannot be found or is difficult, a summary administration may be impossible.
Do you Need an Attorney for a Summary Administration?
While you don't need an attorney to file for Summary Administration, it's a good idea to have legal representation. If some assets are overlooked or there are mistakes in the petition, you and your family may be tied up in probate for much longer than necessary. We have many people come see us after trying to do a summary administration on their own - we are always glad to help them because probates, even the "easy" summary administration, is still not easy!
If you need help going through probate in Florida, the legal team at DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis can walk you through all the necessary steps of closing the estate. Contact us today to set up a consultation and get answers to your questions.