Probate: Summary Administration

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Summary Administration in Florida

In Florida, probate is divided into two main categories: formal administration and summary administration. Summary administration is the less formal of the two and generally applies when an individual’s probate estate is of lesser value.

What is Summary Administration?

Summary administration simplifies the probate process and is designed to expedite the process. Summary administration generally applies under one of two circumstances; the first is that the decedent’s probate estate values less than $75,000. The second is that the decedent has been dead for more than two years. If the decedent’s death took place more than two years ago, the estate does not have to meet the $75,000 limitation to qualify for summary administration.

Contrary to formal probate administration, no personal representative (PR) is appointed in summary administration. By virtue of not having a PR, summary administration takes much less time and effort than formal administration. Summary administration tends to be the best option when a decedent has no creditors or when the decedent has only exempt assets.

Note that even if an estate meets requirements, summary administration is not an option if the decedent’s will explicitly requests formal probate.

How Does Summary Administration Work?

Summary administration begins similarly to formal administration. Before summary administration can begin, a petition must be drawn up and distributed to a surviving spouse and any beneficiaries to be signed. Any of the estate’s beneficiaries can draw up the petition, but it must be signed by a surviving spouse if there is one.

Florida law has specific stipulations for what must be included in a petition to begin summary administration. Our attorneys can help you create a petition to ensure nothing is overlooked.

According to Florida Probate Rule 5.530, a petition to begin summary administration must include:

  1. A statement of the interest of each petitioner, along with the name, address and of the petitioner. Also included should be the name and office address of the attorney for each petitioner.
  2. The name and the last known address of the decedent, the last four digits of the decedent’s social security number, the date and place of death and the state and county where the decedent was domiciled.
  3. The names and addres of the surviving spouse, if available, and the beneficiaries along with their relationship to the decedent. If any beneficiary is a minor, the relationship and the year of birth should be included.
  4. Astatement showing venue;
  5. A statement attesting to whether domiciliary or principal proceedings are pending in another country or state, and the name and address of any foreighn personal representative.
  6. A statement that the decedent’s will, if applicable, does not direct the administration as required by Florida Statutes, Chapter 733
  7. A statement that the entire value of the estate subject to administration in Florida, less the value of property exempt from creditor’s claims, does not exceed $75,000 or that the decedent died more than two years ago;
  8. A description of all assets in the estate, the estimated value of each asset, and a separate description of any protected homestead or exempt property;
  9. Statements that either:
    (A) that all creditors’ claims are barred or
    (B) that the estate has undertaken a diligent search and performed reasonable inquiries for any known or ascertainable creditors has taken place and one of the following:
    (i) A statement certifiying that the state is not indebted
    (ii) The names and addresses of creditors, the nature and amount of the debt, either estimated or exact, and when the debt is due. If a payment other than full payment of the debt has been made, then the proposed order of distribution must show:
    (a) The name of the person responsible for paying the debt
    (b) Written consent by the creditor allowing the substitution or assumption of the debt by another person
    (c) The total amount to be paid if the debt has been compromised
    (d) The terms established for payment of the debt, and any limitations placed on the liability of the person or persons paying the debt.
  10. An intestate estate will require a statement that they have exercised reasonable diligence, and each petitioner is unaware of any unrevoked wills or codicils;
  11. A testate estate will require a statement identifying all unrevoked wills and codicils presented for probate, and a statement that the petitioners are unaware of any other unrevoked wills or codicils; and
  12. A schedule of the proposed distribution of all probate assets and the person to whom each individual asset is to be distributed.

The petition to begin summary administration is then given to a probate court for review. Once the court is satisfied that the estate qualifies for summary administration, a judge will issue an order to distribute the assets.

How Do Creditor Claims Affect Summary Administration?

In Florida, creditors must make claims against an individual’s estate within two years of the decedent’s passing. Any claims made outside of the two-year timeframe will be deemed invalid.

If the decedent has been dead for at least two years, creditor claims do not need to be addressed in summary administration procedures. All creditor claims are barred after the two-year statute of limitations, and assets can be distributed to beneficiaries without having to notify creditors formally.

If the decedent has not been dead for two years and the assets do not exceed the $75,000 limitation, the petitioner in charge must deal with creditor claims before they can begin administration. In this case, the petitioner is responsible for reaching out to any known creditors to provide them with a copy of the petition and make provisions to pay them.

A petitioner can bar creditors from making future claims by filing a Notice to Creditors or filing an affidavit making them personally liable for claims filed within two years of the decedent’s passing. Note that this does not apply to exempt assets such as homesteads.

Properties Exempt in Florida Summary Administration

In Florida, the exempt property does not count towards the $75,000 cap on summary administration qualification. Exempt property includes an individual’s homestead and any property listed under section 732.402 of the Florida Statutes. Properties under section 732.402 include household furniture and appliances, home furnishings up to $20,000 in value, and up to two motor vehicles.

To determine whether an asset is considered exempt, the petitioner must file a Petition Determining Exempt Property with the probate court. The court will then create an order determining the property’s status.

How do Homesteads Affect Summary Administration?

In Florida, homeowners can apply to have their property designated as a homestead. The term homestead applies to a house and the land surrounding it. Homestead exemptions typically apply to farmhouses and property passed down through generations.

By applying for a homestead exemption, homeowners can protect their property from creditors and property taxes. If the decedent owned a home that was their primary residence, Florida homestead law must be considered in the summary administration process.

Under the Florida Constitution, homesteads transfer to a decedent’s heirs automatically upon death. However, heirs of a homestead do not automatically receive a clear title to the homestead. In most cases, an insurance underwriter must pass an Order Determining Homestead before an heir can be awarded a clear title to the property. An Order Determining Homestead is obtained through summary administration.

To obtain an Order Determining Homestead, you must file a petition with a probate court. It’s best to do so in conjunction with a petition to begin summary administration to allow the summary administration process to run its regular timeline. In some cases, a judge may administer a three-month waiting period before issuing an Order Determining Homestead.

If the homestead is the estate’s only asset, it will automatically qualify for summary administration regardless of its value, as Florida homesteads do not count towards the estate’s $75,000 limit.

Do I Need to Hire an Attorney for Summary Administration?

Florida law requires that an attorney assists in the administration of probate estates. An attorney can help you draft complex documents, including petitions to open and close the probate estate.

While formal administration is an option for all probate estates, it may not be the best choice. Before deciding whether to proceed with either formal or summary administration, consult an attorney on the pros and cons of both options.

How Long Does Summary Administration Take?

The whole purpose of summary administration is for it to be an expedited form of probate. On average, summary administration takes about 1-3 months to complete. The length of proceedings usually depends on how quickly the court is able to review a petition and whether they find any errors within it. Our attorneys can help you draft a petition to ensure it will pass through a probate court smoothly to avoid delaying the process.

How Does Summary Administration Differ from Formal Administration?

As there is much less litigation involved and no personal representative is appointed, summary administration tends to be much cheaper than formal administration. You are also not required to send a notice of administration to creditors during summary administration.

Summary administration is much faster than formal administration. While summary administration can be done in a few months, formal administration takes at least six months on average. Since there is no personal representative in summary administration, the probate court can quickly administer the assets to beneficiaries.

Is Summary Administration Better Than Formal Administration?

The reductive answer would be that summary administration is more appealing than formal administration when it is applicable. Formal administration has many more moving parts than summary administration, so summary administration is usually much cheaper and quicker than formal administration. However, there are other variables to consider when choosing which type of probate process is best.

Every estate has unique requirements, so there is no black and white answer to which type of probate is better. If the estate is of low value and has minimal creditors, summary administration is adequate. If you know that the estate has several creditors, summary administration is usually not the best option, even if the estate meets summary administration requirements.

The main drawbacks of summary administration are that much less information is available to the petitioner and that all assets need to be accounted for before the process even begins. You should also note that if you require a letter of administration, summary administration is not an option.

In short, if you have the option for summary administration, you should generally take advantage of it. Formal administration is best left to high-value estates or estates with complex requirements. If you are unsure which type of probate is best for you, consult an attorney.

Summary Administration Attorneys in Florida

Dealing with the task of distributing a loved one’s assets can be mentally and emotionally draining. If you require assistance petitioning summary administration, contact us today. Our attorneys are standing by and are ready to help you uphold your loved one’s wishes. Call us today at 727-933-0015 for a free case review.

 

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