Florida Probate Administration
Assisting Clients with Formal & Summary Probate Administration
At Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A., our team of talented and knowledgeable attorneys have been helping clients across the state of Florida with their probate matters since 2002. Our firm has a breadth of experience and varied backgrounds that make them extraordinarily well-suited to handle your probate administration case. Our lawyers are ethical and honest, but we also have a reputation for being aggressive and fierce advocates for our clients in the courtroom. Our mission is to protect our clients’ best interest and to pursue justice on their behalf, so please reach today if you need legal counsel regarding probate administration.
What Is Formal Administration?
In general, “formal administration” is required when the decedent has been dead for two years or less and when the value of the probate estate exceeds $75,000. It is important to note that the value of the probate estate is not the same as the value of the gross estate. A decedent’s gross estate consists of everything in which the decedent had an ownership interest, regardless of the form of property or where it is located. The probate estate consists of those assets that were owned by the decedent and the decedent alone, such as:
- A sole-named bank account
- A retirement account with no named beneficiary
- A house in the decedent’s name with another person as tenants in common
Jointly-owned property does not pass through probate and neither does property with a named beneficiary. Assets held in a revocable or living trust do not pass through probate. So, a person could have a $5,000,000 gross estate and have no probate estate, a small probate estate, or a probate estate of the same size as the gross estate. It simply depends on how the decedent’s assets were owned at the time of their death.
The formal probate process involves the application by a qualified fiduciary to be appointed personal representative. That person might have to post a bond, or the court can require a restricted depository in lieu of a bond. A restricted depository is a bank account from which no withdrawals can be made without a court order. Both the bond and the restricted depository are intended to protect beneficiaries from maladministration, whether intentional or accidental.
The duties and powers of the personal representative are set forth in great detail in the statutes, as are formulas for compensation for the personal representative and their attorney. Creditors must be notified and given an opportunity to present their claims to the personal representative. Once the assets have been marshaled and the creditors have been satisfied, then the personal representative must account to the beneficiaries for the period of administration and distribute the assets to them. Upon successful completion of administration, the personal representative is discharged from any further duties and liabilities.
The formal probate process can take anywhere from 4-6 months to many years, depending on the nature and complexity of the case and whether litigation is involved.
What Is Summary Administration?
According to Fla. Stat. §735.201, summary administration can occur in the administration of either a resident or non-resident decedent’s estate when it appears in a testate estate (one where the decedent had a will), the will does not direct administration, or when the value of the entire probate estate in Florida does not exceed $75,000 or the decedent has been dead for more than 2 years.
For example, if a decedent dies with $35,000 in assets subject to probate, then summary administration can be utilized because the size of the estate is small. If a decedent dies with $100,000 in assets subject to probate and has been dead for 4 years, then summary administration can be used because of the length of time that has passed since the decedent’s death.
Why Is There a 2-Year Rule for Summary Administration?
The reason for the 2-year rule is that there is a statute that limits claims against an estate to two years. Fla. Stat. §733.710 states that “notwithstanding any other provision of the code, 2 years after the death of a person, neither the decedent’s estate, the personal representative, if any, nor the beneficiary shall be liable for any claim or cause of action against the decedent, whether or not letters of administration have been issued, except as provided in this section.” (The exceptions are for creditors who timely filed claims under Fla. Stat. §733.705 and purchase money security interests, e.g. mortgage).
This “limitation on claims against estates” statute is called a statute of repose. It provides a date upon which (2 years after the date of death) the creditor’s action no longer exists, whether it has accrued by that date or not, so it entirely cuts off a creditor’s right of action. It is a stricter deadline than a statute of limitations because it may not be tolled by fraud, discovery of claim, etc.
Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration
The other abbreviated form of probate administration is called “disposition of personal property without administration.” This type of probate is not technically administration at all. It involves the filing of one pleading on which the court will issue an order. It is available only if the decedent had only exempt personal property (for example, a personal use automobile) and non-exempt property that does not exceed in value the sum of preferred funeral expenses ($6,000 max) and reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses of the last 60 days of illness.
Our Florida Probate Administration Attorneys Can Assist You Today
Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. is a boutique law firm that specializes in a wide variety of probate matters. We know that probate and trust litigation are complex areas of the law that require specialized knowledge, which is why we are here to guide you through each phase of the legal process. We measure success by the satisfaction of our clients, so please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your case.
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Michele, thank you for helping me through this process and making me the owner of the home. My gratitude to you for all you have done.” - S.R.
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