In Florida, probate is the legal system through which certain assets of a deceased person are used to pay off the deceased’s debts, and the remaining assets passed on to those who inherit from the deceased person.
A Florida probate can include tasks such as submitting a Will to the Court, identifying the decedent’s assets and creditors, assisting with the liquidation of assets and distributing property pursuant to a Will or to Florida law.
In Florida, the Personal Representative (i.e. “Executor”) is charged with managing the probate assets and administration. A Personal Representative is under no obligation to use the same law firm that wrote the will for the probate administration. Florida law generally does not allow “do-it-yourself” probate except in some cases involving very small assets.
TYPES OF PROBATE ADMINISTRATION IN FLORIDA
The state of Florida has two types of probate administration: formal administration and summary probate.
Formal Probate Administration
A “formal administration” is the more involved of the two kinds of Florida probate administrations. A formal probate administration requires a minimum of six months to complete, and most take longer, depending on the County and the facts on the case.
A probate case is opened with a petition to open the estate and name one or more personal representatives. After the estate is opened, a Notice to Creditors is published in a local newspaper, and creditors generally have three months in which to file their claims. The personal representatives set out to identify the debts and assets of the estate and to have any necessary tax returns prepared and filed.
Once the creditor period has passed for claims, the personal representative determines when and how to pay the estate’s valid debts (in a certain order), and ultimately, distributes the remaining estate. Once everything has been distributed, the Florida estate can be closed.
“Summary” Probate Process for Small Estates
Florida also has a “short form” of probate for certain smaller or older estates, which is faster and less expensive than a formal probate administration used for most Florida probate administrations.
Summary probate administration is available for estates with “non-exempt” property of less than $75,000. The value of “homestead” real property is not counted in totaling the value of the estate. Summary administration can also be used in any size estate if the deceased has been dead more than two years. Summary administration does not work in many cases, such as those where the asset and debt details are unknown or cases where there are missing or minor heirs or beneficiaries.
Our attorneys and staff strive to be responsive, efficient, and economical in assisting with estate administrations, whether in Escambia, Santa Rosa, West Palm Beach, Orlando, and across the entire State of Florida. Probate can be a bit confusing, and our office is here to make it less so. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your probate questions and administration.