When someone dies in Florida, how do we know if probate will be necessary? The answer is if someone had an asset in their own, individual name. The size of the asset does not matter for Florida purposes, just the titling. So if the decedent dies with a bank account worth only $2,000 in their own name, the family/heirs will need some type of help from probate and the court system. Depending on the size of the estate, the probate process differs greatly.  Florida generally has three probate processes to consider:

Example: Mom dies with $2,000 in a bank account in her own name. The bank will not let anyone access the funds and tells people they need to get "letters from the court." If someone paid for mom's funeral out of their own pocket, that person can go to the Clerk of Court where mom passed and get a court order directing the bank to pay them the $2,000.

  • Summary Administration: This is a more simple probate process that is available only when:
    • the probate assets are worth less than $75,000;
    • all the heirs consent to the petition;
    • all of the decedent's bills are paid (a big issue with summary administrations); and
    • all of the decedent's assets are known (if something else is found in the future, you have to go back to court again!)

With a summary administration, the family does not need an attorney to do the filing BUT the process is difficult and an attorney would likely be necessary. We help people all the time after they file their summary paperwork and the court does not allow it due to deficiencies.

  • Formal Probate Administration: This is the full probate process of appointing the personal representative, dealing with creditors, publishing in the newspaper, etc. This is done when assets exceed $75,000, the estate has debts, heirs do not agree, there are unknown assets, and more.

If your loved one has recently passed and your family is looking to probate an asset, please download our free guide on Navigating the Florida Probate Process to learn more.

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