Summary Administration of Wills in Florida: The Pros and Cons

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Under Florida Statutes Chapter 735, when a probate estate is valued at less than $75,000.00, the estate qualifies for summary administration, a simplified and much quicker probate process. It is important to remember, however, summary administration is not the default type of administration. To obtain summary administration, a petition must be filed by any beneficiary within two years of the death of the decedent. Once the court approves the petition, the court may enter an order allowing the immediate distribution of the assets of the estate to the persons entitled to them. While summary administration may seem ideal for smaller estates, there may be some disadvantages for estates in Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach if, for instance, real property owned by the estate is in foreclosure.

When calculating the assets subject to probate, it is necessary to know that most stock accounts, IRAs, life insurance and primary residences are not usually subject to probate and therefore would not be included in the $75,000 dollar calculation. For most estates, the most valuable asset is the primary residence. When this qualifies under Florida homestead, the residence passes directly to their heirs as proscribed by the Florida Constitution and therefore is not included in calculating the probate estate and not part of the $75,000 to determine whether the estate qualifies for summary administration.

Summary administration may seem like a great idea for an efficient distribution of a smaller estate. One major disadvantage, however, with summary administration is that a personal representative will not be appointed by the court. If a decedent died without a will, the court will not name a personal representative in a summary probate administration as they would in a formal probate administration. There is only a petitioner. This is the individual who files the petition for summary administration. A petitioner is not given the same authority as a personal representative to inquire, manage or dispose of assets as the personal representative does. This can cause a lot of problems with the administration of the estate. For instance, if decedent dies with a home in foreclosure, a personal representative may be necessary to discuss the options on this property with the bank. A petitioner would not have such broad authority.

If you live in the West Palm Beach, Broward, or Miami-Dade area and want to discuss your options with an attorney or feel you received your improper share of an estate as a beneficiary or creditor, the probate litigation team at Chepenik Trushin will help you obtain the proper legal relief. Please feel free to contact us for an initial first consultation.

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