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Alternatives to Formal Probate: Summary Administration

In Florida, when someone dies, his or her estate must be distributed by a probate court. While this process has become simpler and quicker since the adoption of the Uniform Probate Code, it can still be time-consuming and expensive because it requires overcoming numerous procedural hurdles. Fortunately, in certain situations, families can use a probate shortcut known as summary administration. If you are a beneficiary of a will and want to avoid a drawn-out legal process, an experienced attorney may be able to help you file for summary administration.

Requirements

Avoiding formal probate and utilizing summary administration is only an option if:

  • The decedent died more than two years prior; or
  • The value of the property that would go through probate is not more than $75,000.

Certain types of assets are exempt from standard probate court approval and so are not included in calculating the property’s value. Non-probate assets include:

  • Property held in joint tenancy;
  • Assets that are reserved for a beneficiary; and
  • Assets invested in a living trust.

Petition

To begin the process of summary administration, a Petition for Summary Administration must be filed. This may be done by the person named as the executor in the will or by anyone else who is a named beneficiary. However, if there is a surviving spouse, he or she is required to sign off on the petition before it can be officially filed. Additionally, if any beneficiary named in the will does not sign the petition, he or she must be formally served with notice that the petition was filed. The petition must include sufficient information, including:

  • A statement that that estate qualifies for summary administration;
  • A list of the decedent’s assets and their values; and
  • A statement describing which individuals inherit which assets.

Administration and Notice

If the petition is approved, the court will issue an order that releases the property to the beneficiaries designated in the will. Once the order is received by a beneficiary, he or she can also publish a notice to creditors, notifying anyone with an outstanding claim against the estate that an order of administration was issued by the court. The notice must include the:

  • Total cash value of the estate; and
  • Names and addresses of the beneficiaries.

Additionally, the notice must be published in a newspaper once a week for two weeks in the county where the order was issued, proof of which will be filed with the court. When this notice is filed, it bars all creditors’ claims, unless they are filed within three months of the date of the first publication.

Distributing a loved one’s assets after he or she has passed away can be an emotionally exhausting and difficult experience. At the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, located in Lake Worth, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach, we can help you navigate Florida’s probate system and speed up the process while also handling your case with sensitivity and compassion. Please contact us to schedule a free initial consultation.

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