Probate Shortcuts in Florida

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

Updated by , Attorney

The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Florida offers some probate shortcuts for "small estates." If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, or if the estate is very uncomplicated, your loved ones might have ways to transfer your property more quickly and with less hassle than full-blown probate.

Summary Administration for Small Estates in Florida

One simplified probate proceeding available to certain estates is called "summary administration." Your estate can qualify for this shortcut if either of the following is true:

  • two years have passed since the death, OR
  • the value of the probate estate (meaning all of the property the deceased person left behind that's subject to probate) is $75,000 or less.

(Fla. Stat. Ann. § § 735.201 and following.)

Summary administration is essentially a sped-up version of full probate.

The Steps of Summary Administration in Florida

Here are the steps of a typical summary administration:

  • The executor nominated in the will or anyone who inherits property ("beneficiary" or "heir") files a document called a Petition for Summary Administration with the local probate court. The person who takes charge of this process is called the "petitioner."
  • The surviving spouse, if any, must sign and verify the petition, along with all beneficiaries. (If any beneficiary doesn't sign the petition, that beneficiary must be formally served with notice of the petition.)
  • The petitioner tries to locate any creditors and serve them with a copy of the petition.
  • The petitioner can also publish a notice to creditors in a local newspaper. If you file proof with the court that you published this notice, creditors only have three months after the publication to try to make a claim.
  • If the court determines the estate qualifies for summary administration, it can enter an immediate order allowing the property to be distributed.

Once you have the court order, you can present it to any person or institution who has property of the deceased person. For example, you can take the order to a bank to show you are the rightful beneficiary of the account funds.

Disposition Without Administration for Small Estates in Florida

Another simplified probate process available to small estates in Florida is called "disposition without administration." This shortcut allows you to use an informal process instead of probate.

To qualify, the deceased person must not have left behind any real estate, and the property in the estate can't exceed the following:

  • exempt property, as defined by Florida law (such as furniture and household items up to $20,000 in value, as well as two vehicles)
  • personal property that's exempt from creditor claims (up to $1,000)
  • reasonable funeral expenses not exceeding $6,000, and
  • reasonable and necessary medical expenses of a last illness, incurred up to 60 days before the death.

(Fla. Stat. Ann. § 735.301.)

So what does all this mean? The bottom line is that if the size of your estate doesn't exceed these amounts, your estate can be settled very quickly because there aren't any remaining assets after these amounts are paid out.

The Steps of Disposition Without Administration in Florida

Here are the steps of a typical disposition without administration:

  • An interested person (usually a spouse or child entitled to the exempt property) files an application for disposition without administration. This affidavit or letter will include descriptions of the deceased person's property (with the value of each asset), statements and receipts for funeral and medical expenses, and the requested payments or distributions of the deceased person's property.
  • Anyone entitled to exempt property may need to also sign the application.
  • The court authorizes distribution of the property, usually via a letter or order.

Once you have the court order, if you're entitled to property, you can present the order to any person or institution who has that property. You'll notice there's no waiting period for creditors, which substantially lengthens probate proceedings.

Example: The only property in the estate is $2,000 in a bank account. You paid $2,200 in funeral expenses, and after the application for disposition without administration, the court orders the entire bank account to be distributed to you to reimburse the funeral expenses. You can present the order directly to the bank.

For More Information

For more help handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo). For an introduction to how you can plan your estate to help your survivors, try Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).

For more on Florida estate planning issues, see our section on Florida Estate Planning.

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