Summary Administration in Florida

In Florida, there are two types of probate administration: formal and summary. Both accomplish essentially the same objective of allowing the distribution of a decedent's assets. However, there are some significant differences between these two types of probate. This article is intended to discuss the summary probate administration.

Of the two types of probate in Florida, summary administration is considered a less complicated and somewhat speedier process. In addition, the summary administration usually is less expensive since the work that the estate lawyer has to do is less involved.

However, summary administration can only be used in certain limited circumstances. The main criteria are that the estate cannot exceed $75,000 (not including the homestead) and there are no creditors-or if there are creditors, they must be dealt with. If there are extensive or complicated creditor claims, formal probate is preferred. 

There's one big difference between how summary probate and formal probate work. In a formal probate, the Court appoints a Personal Representative (sometimes referred to as an Executor) to act on behalf of the estate. The Personal Representative is issued Letters of Administration which authorize him or her to act. In a summary administration, no Personal Representative is appointed and no Letters of Administration are issued. In cases where a Personal Representative and Letters are necessary to investigate or deal with estate assets, then a formal administration is the right choice. However, if the assets are all known, and no Personal Representative is required, then the summary probate could save money and time.

Here's an example of where summary administration would work. John dies owning his principal residence and $20,000 in a bank account. He does not owe any creditors and there's no need to have a person authorized to act for his estate. Summary administration would be a good solution to tranfsfer the home and the bank account to John's beneficairies. The summary petition can be prepared and filed with the court and in a short time (typically 90-120 days depending on the county) the administration will be complete.

Changing a few facts will show when a summary administration does not work. John dies owning his primary residence, $100,000 in a savings account, and a money market account of unknown value. John also owes balances on credit cards and some medical bills. In this case, summary administration would not only not apply, it would not accomplsih all that is necessary. Because the savings account is over $75,000, that would disqualify the summary administration. In addition,  a Personal Representative is needed so that he or she can receive Letters of Administration to investigate the money market account. 

When filing a summary probate, the lawyer will usually need the following:

1. The original Last Will and Testament (if there is one);

2. A certified Death Certificate;

3. Proof of payment of the funeral or cremation bill;

4. The names and addresses of all beneficiaries; and

5. An accurate description of each asset being probated (such as the account number on a bank account or the legal description on a house).

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