Probate Shortcuts in Florida

Save time and money when you wrap up an estate in Florida.

Florida offers a probate shortcut for "small estates." This makes it easier for survivors to transfer property left by a person who has died. You may be able to transfer a large amount of property using the following probate shortcut -- saving time, money, and hassle.

Simplified Probate Procedures

Florida has a simplified probate process for small estates. To use it, an executor files a written request with the local probate court asking to use the simplified procedure. The court may authorize the executor to distribute the assets without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate.

You can use the simplified small estate process in Florida if:

  1. There is no real estate, and all property is exempt from creditors' claims except amounts needed to pay funeral and two months' last illness expenses. The court will authorize transfer of property to people entitled to it upon a simple letter or application to the court. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 735.301.

or

  1. The value of the entire estate subject to administration in Florida, less the value of property that is exempt from creditors' claims, doesn't exceed $75,000, OR the deceased person has been dead more than two years. A petition must be filed with the court. This process is called “Summary Administration.” Fla. Stat. Ann. § § 735.201 and following.

Summary Administration in Florida

Summary administration is a shortened version of probate. To start this process, the executor nominated in the will or anyone who inherits property (“beneficiary” or “heir”), files a document called a Petition for Summary Administration. The surviving spouse, if any, must sign and verify the petition, along with all beneficiaries. If any beneficiary doesn’t sign the petition, he or she must be formally served with notice that you have filed the petition (such as having a civil process server give the documents to the beneficiary or delivering it via certified mail).

In the petition, you state that the estate qualifies for summary administration, list the deceased person’s assets and their value, and state who inherits which assets. You attach a copy of the will to the petition. You should also try to locate any creditors and serve them with a copy of the petition. If funds are available, creditor claims should be paid.

If the court determines the estate qualifies for summary administration, it can enter an immediate order allowing the property to be given to the people who inherit it. For example, you can take the order to a bank to show you are the rightful beneficiary of the account funds.

The beneficiary or personal representative has the option of publishing a notice to creditors in a newspaper published in the county where the petition is filed of this order and of the identities of the beneficiaries. If you file proof with the court that you published this notice, creditors only have three months to try to make a claim.

For More Information

For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see The Executor’s Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo) or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).

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