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FAST TRACK FLORIDA PROBATE

By Phillip B. Rarick, Miami Probate Attorney

Introduction

Most states have streamlined probate procedures for smaller estates.  Florida’s procedure is called Summary Administration and can be used to expedite administration of estates not exceeding $75,000 or when the decedent has been dead for more than two years.  F.S. 735.201(2).  It avoids the appointment of a Personal Representative (or “Executor” in other states).  Summary Administration should always be considered for small estates; however, as discussed below, it may not always be the most practical option.

Note:  The $75,000 cap is in addition to the homestead, so there could be a sizable estate handled with Summary Administration.  

A.  Computing the $75,000

In determining whether the decedent’s estate qualifies under the $75,000 limitation,  non-probatable assets are excluded from the computation.  Such non-probatable assets are:

  • Tenancy by the entireties and joint   tenancies with right of survivorship
  • Survivorship bank accounts
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Wages, traveling expenses and unemployment compensation due to a deceased employee
  • Liability Insurance
  • Protected Homestead:  Although a Petition for Summary Administration is not required to contain a list of non-estate property, it is recommended that homestead property be listed if there is any doubt regarding its protected status.  This might avoid a later “void ad initio” argument.  See In re Estate of Mosley, 402 So. 2d 594 (Fla 5th DCA 1981).

“Exempt property” is excluded from the $75,000 cap pursuant to F.S. 735.201(2). Note: either a spouse or child must survive the decedent for the property to be “exempt property.”  Such property is:

  • Household furniture, furnishings and appliances in the decedent’s home up to a net value of $10,000
  • Automobiles in the decedent’s name
  • Florida prepaid college program contracts
  • Personal property valued up to $1,000

In a Summary Administration, the estate must not be indebted or provisions for payment of debts must be made; if the assets are “exempt” then creditors are entitled to notice.  If the Petition is signed by all interested parties, a hearing on the Petition is rarely needed.

B.    Time Frame: 3-6 months for simple, uncontested administrations in most counties.  However, the time frame can vary according to the Florida county.

C.  Legal Fees

Our firm charges an hourly rate for Summary Administrations.  After reviewing the will and Florida inventory, we will give you a good faith estimate of the cost to open and close the Summary Administration assuming prompt cooperation of all beneficiaries, no creditors, and no contested issues.

D.  Documents Needed to Open

For a list of documents needed to open an ancillary estate Summary administration, click here: Checklist of Documents for Ancillary Administration.

E.  When Summary Administration May Not be the Most Practical Option

1. The Will leaves the property to a large number of beneficiaries, each of whom would have to sign the contract to sell as well as the deed and other closing papers.

2.  If some of the beneficiaries are minors, guardianships may have to be set up and maintained until the minor reaches adulthood.

3.  If the whereabouts of one or more of the beneficiaries are unknown. Formal probate administration can accommodate a missing heir, but Summary Administration cannot.

4.  If one of the beneficiaries refuses to cooperate with the other owners, formal administration may be needed in order to sell the property.

5.  The estate has numerous creditors.

E.  Conclusion

Our office provides statewide probate legal services for summary or formal administrations that are not contested.  For more information or a good faith estimate, please contact Phillip B. Rarick, Miami Probate Attorney,  at (305) 556-5209 or e-mail prarick@raricklaw.com.

Special Note

The information on this blog is of a general nature and is not intended to answer any individual’s legal questions. Do not rely on information presented herein to address your individual legal concerns. If you have a legal question about your individual facts and circumstances, you should consult an experienced Miami probate attorney. Your receipt of information from this website or blog does not create an attorney-client relationship and the legal privileges inherent therein.

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