Legal terms can be intimidating when not properly understood. Terms such as ‘probate administration’ often need an attorney to help explain. Don’t let seemingly complex terms scare you from understanding what legal issues you are involved in. There are several types of probate but the most common form in Florida is formal administration.
Contrary to many popular beliefs, probate is not automatically required after a death. In Florida, the term “estate” refers to the property of a descendant that is the subject of administration.
Probate is related to the settling of an estate and involves the official proving, and establishing the validity, of a will. Regardless of the method of settling an estate, the will of the deceased must be files with the local circuit court within 10 days of discovery of the death. In Florida, there are various ways for settling an estate.
Some assets don’t go through probate, meaning that assets of the deceased may go to the new owner without probate court approval. This may be due to joint tenancy, a designated beneficiary, or a living will trust.
In some instances, there is no probate at all, and the disposition is without administration. This is often the case when the deceased does not own much. Revocable trusts, life insurance proceeds, jointly-owned property, homestead real property, and claims against other parties (including wrongful death) are examples of assets that may or may not be included in a decedent’s probate estate.
Summary administration is a probate shortcut used by many Florida estates. It is an option if the death occurred more than two years prior, or if the value of the probate estate does not exceed $75,000.
Formal administration, otherwise known as regular probate, is necessary when the estate does not qualify for a simpler method of administration.
How does it work?
Formal administration happens when the circuit court is appointed as the personal representative of the estate on behalf of the request of the executor nominated in the will, or another interested party.
Without objection by the beneficiaries, the probate proceeding will occur in the country where the deceased was living before death. A Letter of Administration, issued by the court, gives the personal representative authority to settle the estate. If a will exists it needs to be signed by the court and proven valid through several ways.
The personal representative has the responsibility of gathering and inventorying assets, paying debts and or taxes, and ultimately distributing the leftover value to those entitled to inheritance. This is all done under the supervision of the court. The personal representative needs to submit a final accounting report to the court. Any objections need to be done in court.
Once distribution has taken place, the personal representative needs to file evidence with the court to certify that the estate has been closed. The court then issues an order to close the estate, thereby relieving the personal representative of their responsibilities. The process in its entirety normally takes 6 months to a year until complete.