This simplified probate process could save you and your family lots of time in probate court if the estate qualifies
The probate process can make losing a loved one much more challenging and emotionally taxing. In Florida, the average probate process can take up to 12 months, while more complicated or litigated estates can be in probate for more than two years.
Fortunately, there's another option for small estates. Summary administration is a simplified probate process than can save you and your family a lot of time trying to manage the estate of a deceased loved one. Here's what you need to know about this alternative to standard probate.
What is summary administration?
Summary administration is a way for smaller estates to be resolved and distributed without a lengthy probate process. There are fewer forms involved, no requirement for a personal representative, and the estate is opened and closed with the same court order.
If you're trying to manage a small estate for a family member, and the estate meets the applicable eligibility requirements, summary administration is a much faster and easier way to distribute assets and property.
How does an estate qualify for summary administration?
Laws vary by state, but in Florida, there are two ways an estate can be eligible for summary administration:
- The death of the decedent was more than two years ago, regardless of the estate's value, and no probate administration has yet occurred.
- The probate estate value (excluding non-probate assets) doesn't exceed $75,000.
The value of the estate in this case does not include the deceased's protected homestead real estate value. Non-probate assets are those that do not require a court order to be distributed, including a joint bank account, life insurance policy, or retirement account, for which the deceased would have designated a beneficiary.
How can summary administration save time?
The summary administration process is simple and straightforward, so it takes substantially less time than the full probate process.
First, a petition is filed with the probate court for a summary administration, which must be signed by the spouse if the deceased was married. Beneficiaries of the estate named in the will be served a notice about the petition if they don't also sign it upon filing.
Included in the petition are all assets and property of the deceased, the value of each, and who will receive each asset. If all components of the petition are included and satisfactory, the court will order the summary administration, and the property in question will be released as outlined. This process eliminates the need for an executor.
It's always wise to meet with a legal professional to help you prepare the petition and get through the summary administration process. The standard documents you'll need to provide when you meet with your attorney include a copy of the death certificate, a copy of the will (or list of beneficiaries and contact information if there is no will), and a copy of the paid funeral bill if it has been less than two years since the deceased passed away.
For very small estates, the summary administration process can take only a week or two, but often it can take one or two months. In either case, it is a much shorter length of time than the average probate process for estates.
Debts and summary administration
If the deceased had debts upon their death, and two years have passed since the date of the debt, creditors are not legally allowed to make a claim against the estate in summary administration. However, this means beneficiaries could still be liable for debts in that two-year period after the date of death.
If the low value of the estate was the qualifying factor for summary administration, the petitioner must attempt to locate the creditors and they must be delivered a petition copy. They could then make claims for payment.
Going through a lengthy probate process can bring stress and tension to families. If you're dealing with a small estate after a loved one's death, consider the simplified probate process of summary administration instead.
If you're unsure about a real estate issue you're having, work with an experienced attorney in Florida who can advise you about the best way forward. The team at PeytonBolin is happy to meet with you in a free consultation and discuss your options.
Contact the lawyers at PeytonBolin to get started.