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Acting as the personal representative for a loved one’s estate after their passing is no small matter. Maybe you chose to do so before their passing as a way to show your love and care for their wellbeing. But, now that the time has come for you to act on their behalf, you are feeling completely overwhelmed, especially since they did not have a will.
We hear you. That’s why we’ve created this post that outlines all of the information you need to apply for and receive letters of administration in the state of Florida. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Similar to letters of administration in other states, letters of administration are legal documents issued by a probate judge that allows a personal representative to act on behalf of the decedent’s estate. Having these documents filed with the probate court of your jurisdiction allows the personal representative to deal with the assets of the estate, such as:
Additionally, other third parties will need a certified copy of the letters of administration to know to who to release the deceased’s assets. In short, this document is crucial to ensuring the estate's assets are dealt with in a manner the deceased would have wanted.
Form E4 is the official letter of administration that will be signed by the probate judge in your jurisdiction once all the prerequisite steps have been completed. While getting this signed and approved by a circuit judge is a key step, there are important restrictions to be aware of when it comes to your duty as a personal representative:
According to Title XLII Chapter 733 of the Florida Statutes, every fiduciary (someone who has a financial duty acting on behalf of another) granted letters of administration will need to furnish a bond. In simple terms, a bond is a form of insurance that protects the estate and its beneficiaries from financial loss. Unless a bond is not required by a court order, you will need to supply it, along with a fee and Form E4A.
Quick Note: If you choose to, pursuant to subsection 4 of Chapter 733.402, you can petition the court to have the requirement for an estate bond removed, provided you are an interested party.
If the decedent was a non-resident of Florida but owned real estate in the state, you will likely need Form E9 - Ancillary Letters of Administration. These letters allow the personal representative to administer the real estate located in Florida to the beneficiaries of the estate, as under state law.
Note that the requirements/restrictions of these ancillary letters are the same as the restrictions on the letters of administration (E4)–located above.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of the most common letters of administration, let’s take a look at how to obtain these documents.
Before receiving the official letter of administration, you will need to submit/file the following documents (usually in the form of a certified copy, or original):
Opening the Estate:
Once you have completed the above requisite steps, you are now ready to petition for the opening of the estate.
Different probate cases require different types of filings. If you completed the filing yourself, expect to pay around $235-400 for court filing fees.
Here it is broken down:
|For summary administration less than or equal to $1,000.00||$235|
|For summary administration greater than $1,000.00 and ancillary summary administration||$345|
|For formal or ancillary formal administration, curatorship, conservatorship or guardianship of property (including voluntary guardian property)||$400|
Info provided by: Orange county court of Florida
In the case the decedent had their assets in a trust instead of a will or other instrument, then the general probate process can be avoided. Note, however, that some assets will still need to be dealt with by the courts depending on how they were titled, and if they fall under the trust.
Typically, letters of administration in the state of Florida are not required for successor trustees.
If you are feeling out of your depth with the myriad of forms, requirements, costs, and steps to keep track of, we hear you. Our estate experts at ClearEstate are compassionate, non-judgmental, and experienced in every kind of estate imaginable.
Whether you are looking for assistance in administration or just some advice, contact us for a quick consultation.
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