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What Is the Difference Between a Summary Administration and a Formal Probate Administration in Florida?

In Florida, there are different ways to go through probate. If you’re dealing with a smaller estate, you may qualify for a summary administration.

Summary Administration vs Formal Probate

If you’ve been named an estate executor after a loved one or partner passes away, you'll be responsible for ensuring their assets get distributed according to their wishes. Oftentimes, an estate will have to go through probate in order to validate the will and grant the executor the authority to carry out their duties.

In Florida, the probate process can either be a Summary Administration of probate, with simple transfer methods for small estates, or a structured Probate Administration, which is more formal and supervised by the courts.

We're looking at both types and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

What is the Summary Administration Process?

Summary administration is a simplified probate procedure that can only be applied if the estate's gross value is less than $75,000 - because summary administration is simple it may not require an executor. Simplified probate can be completed within 4-6 months.

Heirs and beneficiaries can claim their property by affidavit, which is a sworn statement presented to the probate court. It's used to claim personal property, real property valued at $75,000 or less, and real property inherited by the surviving spouse, with no restriction on the property's value.

A summary administration process can also be carried out if the estate holder has been dead for more than two years.

What is Formal Probate?

Most larger and more complex estates default to formal probate. Typically, the deceased person's will guides the probate process to ensure that all their assets go to the correct beneficiaries. The will names an executor responsible for administering the estate, which includes paying any debts and taxes before distributing the remaining assets to heirs.

The formal probate process begins when the named executor presents a petition to the probate court to be officially recognized as the executor. The court then verifies that the will is authentic. When it establishes that there are no legal impediments, it issues a Letters of Administration or Letters Testamentary document formally appointing the executor and granting them authority to distribute the assets.

Next, the executor notifies all necessary parties (typically those listed in the will) that the probate process has started. The executor gathers all the assets of the estate, including making a detailed list and getting an appraisal, if necessary. They settle any outstanding debts, pending bills, and financial obligations and may pay the estate tax out of the assets, as well. They may sell items to liquefy the estate to settle these debts.

Once the assets are listed, the debts paid, and creditors satisfied, then the remaining assets are distributed to the heirs. Before giving the beneficiaries their inheritance, however, the executor must petition the court for approval. Once all the assets are distributed, and the heirs receive their final payments, then the executioner's role is over. The last step is to obtain a final discharge of the estate from the probate court, which closes the formal probate process.

Advantages of Each Type of Probate

Formal Probate In Florida

If you go through formal probate, a court oversees a lot of the proceedings and mediates any disputes that may arise among beneficiaries. Plus, the court monitors the administration of the estate and ensures that all the terms of the will are met. However, all those extra steps take time and money, since all those extra filing fees and potential attorney and accountant fees can add up quickly.

Summary Probate In Florida

With summary probate, those who are inheriting smaller estates may receive their property quicker, which can help those experiencing financial hardship.

Another option for small estates is the Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration, an expedited method of transferring estate assets. The process is still filed with the court, but it's not court-supervised. In Florida, there are several stipulations to this process, which a professional estate planner can help you navigate.

Do You Need Probate Assistance?

Do you need help processing the will of a loved one? Are you unsure of the steps to take to ensure that you and any other beneficiaries receive your property? Or, do you need assistance planning your own will and creating an estate management plan? We can help. ClearEstate is an estate planning service with experience helping clients in all financial positions properly administer their estate. We can help you reduce fees and ensure that your surviving spouse, dependents, and other heirs receive what you wish. Call us today for more information.

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