You may, at first blush, think that the probate process is the same for everyone and that the process simply takes into account differences in the value of different people’s estates. In Florida, however, that is not the case. In fact, there are four main types of probate processes depending upon the circumstances of the recently deceased.
In this article, we will make sure that you have an understanding of all types of probate in Florida, so you can know what you can expect when a loved one passes away. As you will see, the fact that there are different types of probate in different circumstances makes a lot of common sense, and the system is not as complex as you might think.
If, after reading this article, you have additional questions about the Florida probate process and the different types of probate, then we welcome you to contact the Palm Beach County lawyers at Doane & Doane, PA. Call today at 561-656-0200 or fill out our online contact form.
The Four Types of Probate in Florida
Under Florida law, the four types of probate are as follows:
Each type has its own requirements, which we cover in detail below. The one thing you should know before delving into each one is that the first type – formal administration – is by far the most common way in which a decedent’s estate is handled in Florida.
1. Formal Administration
The formal administration process is commonly referred to as “regular probate,” because it is the most common way in which estates are handled in probate court.
The formal administration process is initiated by the executor to the estate, or it can be started by an interested party who has a claim against the decedent’s estate. The document used to begin the formal administration process is called the “Petition for Administration.”
Once that petition is filed, the court would then assign a personal representative to act on behalf of the estate. That personal representative would then (i) inventory and give values to the possessions and other assets in the decedent’s estate, (ii) pay any of the debts or taxes related to the estate, and then of course (iii) distribute the remainder to the heirs as indicated in the decedent’s last will and testament.
2. Summary Administration
A summary administration is not that different from regular probate, but it is meant to move more quickly, and it is reserved for estates that are valued at $75,000 or less, or when the decedent has been dead for more than two years.
The summary administration process also begins with a Petition for Administration, filed with the probate court. However, the probate court does not have to appoint a personal representative in contrast to the formal administration process.
In this shortened summary administration process, the probate court has the responsibility of distributing the assets in the estate to the heirs of that estate. The real benefit to a summary administration is that it takes much less time than a formal administration.
3. Ancillary Administration
Ancillary probate is the probate process that is triggered when a decedent owned property in Florida but was not a resident of the state. Florida is, as you know, a destination state for so-called “snowbirds” who come to Florida in the winter months. Many of those out-of-state individuals purchase property in Florida so they can spend a good part of the year in the State. So, if a loved one was a resident of New Jersey and owned a house in Florida, the property in Florida would need to go through an ancillary probate process.
The first step in the ancillary probate process is hiring a Florida attorney to go to court and begin the process. Importantly, the personal representative of the will in another state cannot act in Florida without being subject to a probate process in Florida. It is, therefore, crucial that you obtain the help of a Florida probate attorney before a non-Florida personal representative tries to take any action related to Florida property or assets.
That is because, in Florida, only a blood relative or a Florida resident can act as the personal representative of a non-Florida resident’s estate. Oftentimes, the decedent will have nominated a person to be the personal representative. But, in the event that the non-Florida personal representative does not qualify under Florida law, the majority of heirs with an interest in the Florida assets can send a letter to a personal representative in Florida who is willing and qualified to act.
Once a personal representative is selected, the ancillary probate process is similar to a regular probate process. The personal representative is bonded by a Florida court which then allows the personal representative to act on behalf of the estate after it issues letters of administration.
4. Disposition without Administration
As you might expect, a disposition without administration is not really a probate process at all because there is no administration of an estate to speak of. This process is used infrequently because the following requirements must be present:
1. The total value of their exempt personal property (household furnishings and appliances) is less than $20,000,
2. No creditors have claims to debts owed by the decedents under Florida law, and
3. All non-exempt property does not outweigh the costs incurred by a funeral or hospital expenses.
Thus, this process is only used for very small estates.
Work with Estate Planning Lawyers in Palm Beach
Knowing which type of probate your estate will require is an integral part of planning for the future. Because probate proceedings can be lengthy and costly, making arrangements early can ease much of the emotional burden your successors will face when handling the affairs left after you are gone.
At Doane & Doane, we help you determine the best tools to plan for life’s eventuality. Let us help you. We at Doane & Doane combine big firm resources and experience with the personal touch of a small, boutique firm. We pride ourselves on offering the kind of one-on-one attention that clients at big firms often do not enjoy.
After almost two decades of practice, we have earned the reputation as one of West Palm Beach’s most prominent tax and estate planning law firms. In particular, we understand that estate and probate matters involve a great deal of emotion. We are privileged to help clients on such important matters, and we genuinely care for and support our clients and their families.
We hope that all of our clients, friends, and business associates enjoy the hospitality of our firm’s legal staff. Doane & Doane serves clients in the communities along Florida’s Gold Coast and Treasure Coast, including Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, Indian River, St. Lucie, and Martin counties. For a free consultation and to get to know our firm, please give us a call at 561-656-0200.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact an attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.