Understanding Florida's Simplified Probate Process
Florida Probate Rules for Small Estates
The probate process can vary a little from state to state, so Florida has its own probate rules when someone dies owning property within the state. Many states have laws in place that allow for a streamlined probate process when the value of a decedent's estate is less than a certain amount. In Florida, this streamlined process is called "summary administration."
Which Estates Can Take Advantage of Florida Summary Administration?
An estate can qualify for summary administration under one of two circumstances under Florida's probate rules:
- If the value of the decedent's Florida probate estate does not exceed $75,000, it will qualify for summary administration. This amount doesn't include the value of the decedent's protected homestead real estate, so if a Florida resident dies with $50,000 in the bank and a homestead residence worth $150,000, the heirs can still take advantage of Florida's summary administration.
- An estate will also qualify for Florida summary administration if the decedent has been dead for more than two years, regardless of the value of his assets.
Can Nonresident Estates Take Advantage of Florida Summary Administration?
The heirs of a nonresident of Florida who owns real estate located within the state can take advantage of summary administration under the same circumstances. The value of the nonresident decedent's Florida real estate does not exceed $75,000, or the nonresident died more than two years ago.
What Is Florida's Probate Filing Fee for Simplified Administration?
As of 2016, the filing fee for a Florida summary administration is usually $235 for estates valued at less than $1,000, or $345 for estates valued over that amount. Fees can differ somewhat by county, however, as well as for nonresidents' estates, so contact your local probate court to confirm.
How Long Does Florida Summary Administration Take?
The summary administration process begins with someone -- usually the estate's executor or an heir -- filing a Petition for Summary Administration with the probate court. If the deceased left a surviving spouse, the spouse must sign and verify the petition. Beneficiaries named in the will don't have to sign and verify it, but if any don't, he must be formally served with notice that the petition has been filed with the court.
The court will review the petition and issue an Order of Summary Administration releasing the decedent's property to the estate's beneficiaries. No executor or personal representative is required to serve. This may take as little as a week for very small estates, but it will more likely take up to a month or two. This is still significantly less time than a Florida formal administration.
Should You Take Advantage of Florida Summary Administration?
Although a Florida summary administration may appear to be a cost-effective and less time-consuming process than formal administration, it's not appropriate in all situations. If a will contest is possible, if there are heirs who cannot be located, if the estate has multiple creditors, or if it is insolvent -- it doesn't have sufficient money or value to pay all creditors -- consult with a Florida probate attorney.
A lawyer can help you determine the best course of action if you're dealing with an estate that's a bit complex.
Refer to F.S. § 735.201 et seq. to learn more about Florida summary administration.
See Florida Formal Probate - What is Required to Open a Probate Estate in Florida? to learn more about other Florida probate rules.