What You Should Know about Florida’s Summary Probate Process

Summary probate simplifies Florida probate proceedings

When people die, their estate goes through a court-supervised probate process to ensure their estate is distributed according to the wishes stated in their will. Probate proceedings ensure that all property in an estate is identified and appraised, debts and taxes are paid and property is properly distributed to beneficiaries. It is also needed to wrap up the estate’s financial affairs, including paying all claims and creditors.

According to Florida law, there are two main types of probate proceedings: formal administration probate and summary administration probate. Summary administration simplifies the probate process when the value of the estate’s assets does not exceed $75,000 or when the person has been deceased for more than two years.

Requirements for filing for summary probate in Florida

To qualify for a summary probate, the value of the estate’ nonexempt assets must be less than $75,000 and/or if someone has been dead for more than two years. Some assets pass to others automatically without the need for probate. These exempt assets include:

  • Trusts. Valid living trust and irrevocable trusts are not assets of the probate estate; they are assets of the trust and its beneficiaries
  • Accounts with designated beneficiaries. Retirement accounts, life insurance, investment and other accounts payable to a designated beneficiary upon the death of the account’s owner.
  • Property owned jointly with rights of survivorship. Property that is owned jointly with the rights of survivorship passes directly to the other owner upon death
  • Life estate deeds. Real estate that passes to a remainder beneficiary under a life estate deed (including a Florida Lady Bird deed or Enhanced Life Estate deed)

After these exempt assets are excluded from the estate (for probate purposes), the estate’s non-exempt assets must total $75,000 or less. Examples of an estate’s non-exempt assets include:

  • Bank or investment accounts in the decedent’s name where there is no joint ownership or designated beneficiary
  • Life insurance policies, annuities or IRAs that have no designated beneficiaries and are payable to the estate
  • Real estate titled only in the name of the decedent (or in the name of the decedent and another person as tenants in common without rights of survivorship)

Even if the estate exceeds the $75,000, it may still qualify for the simplified summary probate if the decedent has been dead for more than two years. When someone has been dead for more than two years, in most cases, neither the estate or its beneficiaries are liable for any claim by creditors against the decedent.

Advantages of filing for summary probate in Florida

While formal administration probate can take more than a year, summary administration proceedings usually take just a few months. If the estate qualifies, there are several other advantages to summary probate:

  • You do not need to have a personal representative or executor appointed. Any beneficiary or a personal representative can submit the estate to the summary probate process
  • Creditors do not need to be notified
  • There is no three month creditor claim period
  • It’s less expensive because it is a simpler and shorter process. There are lower attorney fees, no personal representative fees and, if more than two years have passed, there is no cost for publishing notices to creditors

So, the best time to use a summary probate is when you have no creditors or when assets are exempt from creditor claims. Because, every estate is unique, you should contact a board certified estate planning and administration lawyer before filing in probate court. With proper estate planning and counselling, you can determine the correct strategy for administering an estate.

Knowledgeable estate planning lawyers determine if Florida summary probate is a good option for you

The lawyers at Hoyt & Bryan are experienced estate administration and estate planning attorneys. We are the only Florida law firm with two dual board certified attorneys in both wills, trusts and estates and in elder law.We can help you create a comprehensive estate plan to protect you and your family. We offer free scheduled estate planning and administration workshops to central Florida residents. To join us for our next workshop and learn more about how we can help you, call us today at (407) 977-8080, or contact us online.

Peggy R. Hoyt - The Law Offices Of Hoyt & Bryan
About the Author: Peggy Hoyt
Peggy R. Hoyt practices in the areas of family wealth and legacy counselling, including trust and estate planning and administration, elder law, small business creation, succession and exit planning, real estate transactions and animal law.