When a Florida resident who owns property and assets dies, the law requires that a probate process be put in place. Instructions on how this process should take place are described in detail in the Florida Probate Code. Heirs or beneficiaries of the estate will need a licensed attorney to administer the estate. In Florida, there are two types of basic forms of probate:
- Summary administration
- Formal administration
Florida Probate Summary Administration
It is the most appropriate option in a situation where the assets left behind by the deceased are easily identifiable. You do not need to hire a personal representative, and you need to meet the following requirements to be eligible:
- The total value of non-exempt assets should be less than $75,000, or two years must have passed since the decedent died.
- The valid Will does not have instructions for administration as required by Chapter 733.
You can choose summary administration if you have minimal creditors or if creditors have no claims over your assets. Your exempt assets include your homestead and your vehicles, but you also need to consider the following:
- The decedent’s assets must be clearly identified. For example, if there is a bank account, you should know the account number and the amount of money in it.
- Summary administration must be reopened when the petitioner discovers new assets.
- You need to publish a notice to creditors so that heirs are not exposed to future claims by creditors.
- A Personal Representative (PR) is not needed.
Formal administration is the only choice if the value of the decedent’s non-exempt assets is more than $75,000 or the decedent has been dead for two years or less. Suppose the estate is eligible for summary administration, but there are multiple creditors, or there is a need for a PR to manage the estate. In this instance, formal administration is the right choice.
Assets that are considered non-exempt or probate assets include:
- A bank account that is solely under the name of the decedent.
- A house that was not the decedent’s primary home but belonged to the decedent.
- Retirement account with no beneficiaries named.
Probate assets do not include property that is jointly owned or property with a named beneficiary. Assets under trusts are not considered probate, even if they are worth millions. You need to consider the following when choosing formal administration:
- Most cases require attorney representation.
- Under formal administration, a PR has broader powers.
- Primary tasks are completed in the first few months after the appointment of a PR.
- Interested parties can waive the requirement for probate accountings.
What Probate Should You Choose?
The fact that formal administration seems more costly compared to summary administration does not mean summary administration is better. Under summary administration, you will find it challenging to uncover and find all assets of the decedent if you are not the PR. Other things, such as getting the decedent’s bank details or paying of creditor claims, will also be challenging.
The only way to know what option is the best for you is to talk to an experienced probate administration lawyer in Florida.