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Alternatives To Florida Probate After A Death In The Family

Mar 7, 2023 | Probate

If you have recently lost a loved one, and their possessions have to go through a Florida court process known as probate, let us first express our sincere sympathies for your loss. We know how hard death can be. 

We also know that you are probably feeling stressed and confused about probate on top of the grief you are experiencing; most people have never even heard of probate before someone in their family passes away, and have no idea what to expect or what they need to do next. 

Probate usually has to occur before you or the other beneficiaries can officially receive your inheritance (think before real estate can be transferred and sold, before family heirlooms can be claimed, etc.). There are many steps that have to be followed, including validating the will if there was one, inventorying and appraising assets, paying creditors and taxes, and more. The process involves a lot of red tape and paperwork; it can be time-consuming and stressful, and also expensive when you count up all of the legal fees involved. 

That’s why it’s in your best interests to avoid probate, or at least simplify it, if you can. The good news is that traditional or formal probate isn’t always the only option! Here are two other types of probate proceedings in Florida and what you need to know about each. 

Summary Administration 

Summary administration is a quicker, simpler version of formal estate administration (traditional probate). Whereas formal administration usually takes anywhere from six months to a few years, depending on the size and complexity of the estate, summary administration may take as little as one to two months to complete, which is a clear advantage. The quicker probate goes, the less expensive it is and the quicker you can get back to mourning in peace and moving forward with your life. 

An estate in Florida can only qualify for summary administration if two years have passed since the death or the value of the estate (all of the property left behind by the deceased that is subject to probate) is equal to or less than $75,000. 

Essentially, instead of a probate petition being filed, the executor who is named in the will or any of the beneficiaries can file a document called a petition for summary administration. The surviving spouse and other beneficiaries have to sign and verify the petition. Creditors will be served a copy of the petition and be given formal notice. 

When the court determines that the estate does qualify, an order can be filed allowing the property to be distributed; you and the other beneficiaries can take that court order to any person/party who is holding the deceased person’s property (like a bank) and reclaim the assets. 

Disposition Without Administration

Summary administration is the most popular alternative to probate, but it still functions like probate – it’s just faster. Disposition without administration is less accessible; however, if you are able to qualify, it is a much simpler shortcut than even summary administration because it isn’t technically a form of probate at all.

The spouse or child of the deceased person, or other interested party, will file an application for disposition of administration. The application will need to include descriptions of the deceased person’s property that is subject to probate as well as the value of each asset, statements and receipts for medical and funeral expenses, and requested payments or distributions of property. Anyone who is entitled to the property will have to sign the application. The court will approve the application and authorize the distribution; then, just like with summary administration, you or other beneficiaries can present that court order to anyone holding the property. 

One of the best things about disposition without administration is that there is no waiting period for creditors, which can make the process go by in just a couple of weeks or even less. 

In order for an estate to qualify for this shortcut, there can’t be any real estate that was owned by the deceased person. The value of what is left in the estate that is non-exempt cannot exceed the exempt property exceeding $20,000 in value, personal property that is exempt from creditor claims exceeding $1,000, funeral expenses exceeding $6,000, and medical expenses incurred up to 60 days before the death. 

For example, say that the only property in the estate that would need to go through probate is $5,000 in a bank account. If the funeral cost $5,500 (which you paid), you can file for disposition without administration and get a court order for the entire bank account to be paid out to you to reimburse you for the funeral expenses. 

Call Elder Law, P.A. For Compassionate Probate Guidance

Some of this information may be causing your eyes to glaze over at this point – we understand that probate can be really confusing and overwhelming, even in the simplest of terms. If you are trying to find the best way to navigate the process, our experienced and compassionate Florida probate attorneys can help you determine whether you qualify for one of the options mentioned in this blog post! We will take the time to listen to your story and answer all of your questions; we’ll explain everything you need to know so you can feel confident about what to do next. No matter what your case looks like, we can guide you every step of the way to a successful resolution! Our firm will handle all of the legalities and paperwork for you so you can focus on your family. 

You don’t have to go through this alone! At Elder Law, P.A., we’ve worked with hundreds of clients over the past three decades. We’ve seen it all, and can assist with even the most daunting and messy probate scenarios. Our goal is to make probate (whether it’s formal, summary, or disposition) as painless as possible! Call today to book a free consultation and speak with an attorney who truly cares about you. 

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