What is Summary Probate in Florida?
People are often surprised when they find out the potential costs and time involved in a probate administration. Because this is obviously an extremely emotional time for the decedent’s family, the courts have established an alternative method for those who have small estates. If it qualifies, the estate can pass through what’s known as summary probate, which is a more simplified process when compared to a formal probate administration. If you have questions on what probate entails for a small estate, it’s important to speak with a West Palm Beach probate attorney for the most up-to-date information.
Assets Subject to Probate
Not all assets are subject to probate. Assets that must pass through the probate process include things the decedent solely owned at the time of their death or were owned by the decedent and one or more co-owners and the asset lacked any provision for automatic succession upon death. Some assets subject to probate can include:
- Life insurance policies, individual retirement accounts, or annuity contracts that are payable to the decedent’s estate;
- Bank accounts or other investment accounts that are listed in the sole name of the decedent with no designated beneficiaries; and
- Any real estate that is titled in the name of the decedent, or the decedent and someone else hold the real estate as tenants in common; unless the property is subject to other treatment because it is homestead property.
Eligibility Requirements for Summary Administration
In order to file a summary probate in Florida, you must meet certain eligibility requirements. These are:
- The estate must have less than $75,000 in non-exempt assets, which are typically assets other than the primary residence of the decedent; or
- At least two years have elapsed since the person died.
It’s important to understand that while summary administration might seem preferable, there are some potential negative aspects that you should familiarize yourself with. One of the most important elements is that a personal representative is not appointed by the courts.
In the case of summary probate, there is a petitioner, and the petitioner doesn’t have the same power that an executor or personal representative has. This means the petitioner can’t inquire to find out if there are additional assets, as entities, like a bank, have no legal authority to discuss accounts with the petitioner. If you later discover additional assets, you may have to amend the filing and proceed with a formal probate administration anyway.
There are some situations where summary administration might not be the right fit. In situations where there are a lot of creditors, the property may be in foreclosure, back taxes are owed, or there is a pending wrongful death suit, there has to be a formal representative appointed in order to act as the representative of the estate in the civil suit.
Contact a West Palm Beach Probate Attorney
If you have questions about summary administration and understanding what type of probate administration is right for your family’s situation, it’s important to speak with a skilled West Palm Beach probate attorney who can walk you through the basics. At the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A., we have years of experience helping Florida clients with all their estate planning needs. Call our office today at 561-571-8970 to schedule a consultation.