The term “probate” refers to the process by which a deceased individual’s assets are distributed to their heirs or beneficiaries, when the assets do not have beneficiary designations and are not held jointly with rights of survivorship. In Florida, this process can be either a formal administration or summary administration. A formal administration requires appointment of a personal representative. A summary administration is an expedited probate process only applicable to small estates or to estates where the deceased passed away over two years before the probate commenced.
Formal Administration v. Summary Administration
The differences between formal and summary probate administration include:
● Formal administration requires the appointment of a personal representative, while a personal representative is not required in a summary administration.
● Formal administration may be a lengthier and more costly process than summary administration.
● Summary administration can only be used when the total value of probate estate is $75,000 or less or when the deceased passed away more than two years ago.
Formal Probate Administration
Most estates require a formal probate administration. The probate process typically begins by gathering information regarding the assets of the decedent, and heirs/beneficiaries of the estate. When a person passes testate (with a will), their last will and testament is deposited with the clerk of court. A probate attorney will then prepare the requisite petitions to open the estate, starting with a petition for administration. The probate court will then issue letters of administration and various orders such as an order appointing a personal representative and admitting the will (if one exists) to probate, authorizing them to manage the estate and distribute its assets.
Once the personal representative receives letters of administration, they are required to:
● Dutifully administer the estate.
● Notify all interested parties of the initiation of probate proceedings.
● Publish notice to creditors and serve known creditors with notice.
● Inventory and appraise all of the estate’s assets.
● Settle the estate’s debts.
● Distribute the remaining assets to heirs and beneficiaries.
Summary Probate Administration
The steps involved in the summary probate administration process include:
● Preparing the required petitions and orders.
● Obtaining consents from all heirs/beneficiaries, or provide proof of formal notice.
● Obtaining proof of payment of funeral bill.
● Determining if there is a protected homestead.
● Obtaining signed orders of summary administration.
● Distributing the estate’s assets to creditors and beneficiaries.
When should I use formal administration instead of summary administration?
While summary administration can significantly decrease the time and cost associated with the probate process, it may not always be the proper choice for an estate. With summary administration, there is no personal representative appointed. The advantage of having a personal representative is they can provide oversight of the estate assets. If conflicts are anticipated such as a will contest, formal administration is a more appropriate choice.
Formal administration may also be preferable when:
● The estate has multiple creditors’ claims to resolve.
● The estate has real estate that will need to be sold or distributed.
● The will includes complex instructions.
● There are disputes between the beneficiaries.
● The estate has legal claims that require litigation.
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About RMO Lawyers, LLP
About RMO LLP serves clients in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Orange County, San Diego, Kansas City, Miami, and communities throughout California, Florida, Missouri, and Kansas. Our founder, Scott E. Rahn, has been named “Top 100 – Trust and Estate Litigation” by SuperLawyers, Trusts and Estates Litigator of the Year, and Best Lawyers in America for Litigation – Trusts and Estates. For a free consultation, call (786) 761-8333 or visit: https://rmolawyers.com