Probate is the court-supervised process for identifying and gathering the assets of a deceased person (decedent), paying the debts of the decedent, and distributing the assets of the decedent to his or her beneficiaries.
Types Of Probate
There are two types of probate in Florida: formal administration and summary administration. There is also a non-court supervised administration proceeding called “Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration,” however, this administration only applies in limited circumstances. Probate administration only applies to “Probate Assets,” which are those assets that the decedent owned solely in his or her name that did not transfer automatically because of his or her death. Probate is necessary to transfer ownership of the decedent’s assets to the beneficiaries (either by Will or Florida Intestate Law) and to conclude the decedent’s financial affairs (paying creditors and filing final tax returns).
Formal Administration must be used if the estate does not qualify for Summary Administration. Generally, Formal Administration is required where the value of the estate (excluding exempt property) exceeds $75,000, or where the decedent has been dead for less than 2 years. The Probate procedure is a step-by-step process with specific time limitations attached to each step; because of this, and other reasons, Florida Probate Rule 5.030 states that every personal representative must be represented by an Attorney. The time line for a Formal Administration varies with the complexity of the estate, but at a minimum it will take 3 months and can last as long as several years.
Summary Administration may be used if the value of the estate subject to probate (excludes exempt property such as the homestead) is not more than $75,000 and the decedent’s debts are paid (or the creditors do not object), or the decedent has been dead for more than two years. The Summary Administration process can take anywhere from 1 week to several months to complete.
Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration is available only if probate assets consist solely of property classified as exempt from the claims of the decedent’s creditors and non-exempt personal property, the value of which does not exceed the total of (1) up to $6,000 in funeral expenses and (2) the amount of all reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses incurred in the last 60 days of the decedent’s final illness, if any.