Probate is a procedure where assets owned by a deceased person (the decedent) are distributed to heirs. In addition, debts owed by the decedent are paid by the estate, if possible. Florida probate proceedings generally proceed in one of two forms: summary administration and formal administration.
Property that the decedent owned at the time of death may be considered probate assets. The decedent’s share of co-owned property may become a probate asset if provisions do not provide for succession of ownership.
The probate estate generally does not include exempt homestead property, which is protected from the claims of creditors.
Of the two procedures, summary administration is generally considered to be simpler. However, not every estate will be able to use this type of probate.
To qualify for summary administration:
In general, summary administration is faster and less expensive than formal administration However, heirs may remain liable for claims against the decedent for two years after his or her death.
Some estates must go through a formal administration.
To begin formal administration probate, an interested party files a Petition for Administration. Usually, the petition is filed with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where the decedent lived at the time of death. Some or all of the following documents will also be filed:
Whether the decedent died testate (with a valid Will) or intestate (without a valid Will) determines, to some extent, which petitions and orders will be necessary.
For example, if the decedent left a valid Will, the judge may sign the following orders:
If the decedent died intestate, however, the judge typically signs the following:
In a formal administration, the personal representative uses the Letters of Administration signed by the probate judge to prove they represent the estate. For example, the personal representative may show the Letters to a bank in order to access the decedent’s bank accounts.
In some cases, yes. Also, in limited circumstances, property may be handled through a Disposition of Property Without Administration. The best way, though, to avoid probate is through good estate planning.
John Mangan is an experienced Florida estate planning attorney who has been board certified in Wills, Trusts & Estates by the Florida Bar. At the Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., we have assisted many clients in developing comprehensive estate plans that meet their needs. Call us at 772-324-9050 to set up an appointment or use our convenient Contact Form.