The Basics: A breakdown of Florida Estate Administration

When an individual in Florida dies, all of their possessions then become part of their estate. The administration of this estate involves obtaining and managing all possessions in it. This includes paying any taxes or debts that are due as well as distributing the estate’s property to designated heirs. A will determines who is a designated heir. If a person has no will when they die, it is considered dying intestate. In this case, the laws of the state of Florida could determine the distribution of a deceased person’s possessions.

There are three main ways in Florida to administer an estate.

1. No Probate:

This is considered an estate disposition without administration. It is used in cases where the deceased individual had few if any assets or property upon their passing. Any medical or funeral expenses will be reimbursed from any assets contained within the estate. Should the deceased not have any assets exempt from creditor’s claims, assets or assets that do not total more than the number of final expenses, then no probate may be required.

2. Summary administration:

This is often used to settle an estate if the value of an estate does not exceed $75,000 or a person’s death is more than two years old. The process begins when the person designated in the deceased person’s will as the executor files a document known as a Petition for Summary Administration. Should there be a surviving spouse, this person is required to sign and verify the Petition for Summary Administration.

Individuals who are named beneficiaries in the will, and don’t sign the petition, will be officially served notice about the petition being filed. This petition makes an official statement that under the laws of the state of Florida the estate is qualified for summary administration. It will identify the estate’s assets and their value. The petition will also identify which beneficiary will inherit specific assets from the estate.

There is no personal representative appointed by the state of Florida. It will be the court who issues and orders the release of property to the beneficiaries. The court order can also be used to prove a person is a legal heir to funds in a bank account and more.

3. Regular Probate:

This applies when an estate is unable to be administered using a simpler method. It requires the formal probate process. The executor identified in the will, or another interested party, has the option of requesting a circuit court appoint a personal representative. Thomas Upchurch, a Florida probate & estate litigation attorney, tells us that personal representatives have a number of responsibilities which include “paying off the estate’s debts and with court approval, distributing the rest of the estate assets to the beneficiaries.”

The probate process will take place in the county where the deceased was residing when they died. Any heir, as well as the beneficiary, not mentioned in the will, are given notice by the court. This gives them the opportunity to object to the appointed representative should they desire. A court will issue Letters of Administration. This gives the estate’s representatives legal authority to settle the estate. Should there be a will, it is filed with the court. It is possible the validity of the will, may need to be proven. This could involve having those who witnessed the will legally state the validity of the will under oath. A will signed by its creator in the presence of witnesses before a Florida notary public is considered a self-proving will.

Once the court approves a personal representative, they can then inventory all the assets in the estate. They can then pay all taxes and debts owed by the estate. The remaining assets will be forwarded to the beneficiaries according to the will. A final accounting of the estate will then be submitted to the court. Any objections to the estate’s administration can be brought to the court. After this, the estate will be closed and the representatives of the estate will have no more responsibilities. The probate process in this situation could take up to two years.

It is common for a relative or a friend of a deceased to be named as the executor of a deceased’s estate. Someone not familiar with the process can find it overwhelming. It could be complicated and involve challenging family dynamics. Discussing this situation with an experienced attorney can make this seemingly complex process much easier.

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