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What Does Probate Mean in Florida?

On Behalf of | Jan 31, 2021 | Firm News

The process of caring for a loved ones’ affairs after their death can be overwhelming in many ways– emotionally, mentally, and financially.  During grief, the last thing you probably want to think about is how to deal with an intimidating probate proceeding in a courtroom.  Having a Florida attorney who specializes in the probate process is one way to rectify your concerns and ensure that the probate process proceeds as smoothly as possible. Aislynn Thomas-McDonald, Esquire, can expertly handle your probate matter with compassion, care and competency.

In Florida, the probate process is a court-supervised process for identifying and gathering the assets of a deceased person (or, “decedent”), paying the decedent’s debts, and distributing the decedent’s assets to his or her beneficiaries.

All estates do not go through probate in Florida.  If a person passes away without a will or trust and has assets in their name only, then probate is required to distribute property and monies.  If property, bank accounts, insurance policies, annuities, retirement plans, and all assets have beneficiaries designated or joint owners, probate is unnecessary.  However, without certain estate planning safeguards, like a trust, all assets must pass through probate court before title can be given to the heir or beneficiary.

Probate assets include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • A bank account or investment account in the sole name of a decedent.
  • A life insurance policy, annuity contract, or individual retirement account payable to the decedent’s estate.
  • Personal property.
  • Real estate titled in the sole name of the decedent, or in the name of the decedent and another person as tenants in common (unless it is homestead property).

Under Florida law, there are three main types of probate administration: 1) formal administration 2) summary administration; and 3) disposition without administration.

Formal Administration

This is the standard form of probate in Florida.  Formal probate administration takes place in the local Circuit Court of the County in which the decedent resided at the time of their death.  The process starts once an individual passes away and the executor of the will (or other interested party) asks to be appointed as personal representative of the decedent’s estate.  The beneficiaries named in the estate are then provided notice and given a chance to raise any formal objection(s).

Summary Administration

This form of probate is available when the total value of property/assets going through probate court is valued at $75,000 or less.  Summary Administration may also be used when it involves a death that occurred over two years ago (i.e a missing person recently declared dead). The process of this type of administration is initiated by filing a Petition for Summary Administration that must be signed by a surviving spouse and/or beneficiaries. In short, this is an expedited version of probate.

Disposition Without Administration

This process involves skipping the probate hearing entirely due to a specific set of circumstances. This is only available when the deceased individual did not leave any real estate at all and the only assets available for probate are valued at less than the amount of final expenses after probate. In short, disposition without administration occurs when a probate hearing is infeasible from a monetary perspective.

In conclusion, the private process can be lengthy and complicated, but necessary to pass ownership of the decedent’s probate assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries if the decedent did not have a will.  An experienced probate attorney can provide knowledge and expertise to help guide you through this difficult process and ensure that it is resolved in the most efficient manner.