TYPES OF ADMINISTRATION
In Florida, there are two main methods of probate administration: summary administration and formal administration. As the name suggests, Summary Administration is an abbreviated form of probate available provided certain criteria are met. Formal Administration is, you guessed it, a bit more laborious and thus more time and labor intensive. In Florida, the probate process is set forth in Title XLII of Florida Statutes (2019) and the Florida Probate Rules.
To qualify for Summary Administration, the estate must meet the criteria set forth in Florida Statutes 735.201: either the decedent has been deceased for more than two years and/or the value of non-exempt property in the estate does not exceed $75,000. Determining non-exempt property and the value of the assets is best determined with the expert guidance of an experienced probate attorney from Pittman Law Group, or you might end up starting from scratch and having to re-file the estate as a Formal Administration.
Almost all other estates, specifically those which require the appointment of an Executor/Administrator (in Florida we use the term “Personal Representative”), must be administered as a Formal Administration.
TESTATE vs. INTESTATE
Testate and Intestate are two terms that are thrown around in probate circles. The main difference between the two is simple: testate decedents died with a valid last will and testament, intestate decedents did not. The majority of valid and properly executed wills name a personal representative and set forth the manner in which the decedent desired to have his/her assets distributed. However, problems arise when beneficiaries under a will are deceased, the personal representative is unable or unwilling to serve or new assets not specified in the will have been acquired since the decedent drafted the will.
Decedents’ who die without a valid last will and testament, shall be administered via intestate succession as provided for in Florida Statutes Chapter 732. Florida divides property amongst heirs per stirpes and “half-bloods take the same as full bloods”.
The concept of Homestead was so important that it has its own section of the Florida Constitution. Probate Administration also has a specific set of rules relating to homestead property. Most notably, homestead property does not enter into the assets of the probate estate and, with a few very specific exceptions, is not subject to the claims of creditors. Additionally, surviving spouses and minor children have specific rights as it relates to homestead property.
OTHER REAL PROPERTY IN FLORIDA
Often a decedent will own property in jurisdictions other than Florida. In these instances, there are rules as to how this property is distributed and whether it is subject to the claims of creditors. Each piece of real property must be listed in an inventory that is filed with the Court shortly after administration.
Most insurances policies have a named beneficiary (and if yours doesn’t it’s highly advisable not only to add a primary beneficiary but a secondary beneficiary). In these instances, after someone dies, the insurance company is notified and, eventually, the beneficiary receives a check. But what happens when the beneficiary is deceased? In many cases, if a secondary beneficiary isn’t named, the insurance will divest to the estate of the named beneficiary. We can help you navigate the waters of insurance policies and obtaining insurance proceeds.
HOW LONG DOES PROBATE TAKE?
For small estates, the probate process can be quick and painless. However, no two estates are alike. Also note, that many of the tasks that a bank or insurance company will ask you to undertake to save a parcel of property or redeem a policy can (and often will) be handled during the pendency of the probate proceedings. Larger estates and estates requiring formal administration often require 6-12 months, if not longer. Factors such as the number of heirs, the location of the heirs, the location of real property and the number of creditors all have a hand in how long a probate administration will remain open.