What is Probate?

Probate is simply the process in which the court supervises the admini-stration of a decedent’s estate. It is a process created by state law to transfer assets owned in the decedent’s name to his or her beneficiaries. During the probate proceeding, a personal representative is appointed by the court to handle the estate administration, so that assets that are in the decedent’s name can be transferred to his or her beneficiaries. The probate process ensures that creditors, taxes and expenses are paid before assets of the estate are distributed to the beneficiaries. The personal representative is accountable to the court, as well as the estate beneficiaries, for his or her actions during the administration.

If a decedent dies with a will, it is called a testate administration, and the will must be admitted by the court for probate administration. If a dece-dent dies without having a will, it is called an intestate administration, and the administration of the estate will be governed by the intestacy laws of Florida.

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Summary Administration vs. Formal Administration

For probate estates having $75,000 or less in assets, not including exempt protected assets, Florida law provides a simplified probate procedure known as
summary administration. Summary administration may also be used in estates where the decedent has been dead over two years. This process is less costly and typically much faster than the formal probate administration, as it does not require the appointment of a personal representative as required in a formal administration. Instead, the person handling the estate is called the “petitioner,” and after gathering the assets and creditors of the estate, the court provides a final order authorizing distribution of the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. Furthermore, a summary administration does not have requirements such as formal accounting, publication of administration, and various other formalities, making it a much simpler and speedier process than a formal administration.

Consult with an attorney at Hartbrodt to discuss in more detail the statutory requirements and procedures needed for a successful probate administration, whether it be a summary or formal administration that is needed.

Disposition without Administration

Disposition without administration is not supervised by the court and applies in limited circumstances. This is available only where the decedent’s assets consist solely of property classified as exempt from the claims of the decedent’s creditors by applicable law and where the total value of the decedent’s non-exempt personal property does not exceed the combined total of (1) the amount of preferred funeral expenses; and (2) the amount of all reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses incurred in the last 60 days of the decedent’s final illness, if any. Disposition without administration forms are typically available from the county clerk’s office and may be handled without an attorney, although an attorney can help you prepare these documents if desired.

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