Understanding the Requirements for Summary Administration under Florida Law
Learn what Summary Administration is, how an estate qualifies, and how a homestead property is handled as part of a Summary Administration proceeding.
Qualifying for Summary AdministrationAs the name suggests, Summary Administration is a shortened form of probate, as compared to Formal Administration, which generally requires more time, effort, paperwork, and costs. However, Summary Administration is available only for estates that meet either of the following two requirements:
The decedent passed away two or more years prior to the commencement of probate proceedings; OR
The value of the estate, minus any property exempt from creditor claims, is $75,000 or less.
Moreover, if the estate meets either of the above criteria but is intestate * meaning the decedent did not leave a Last Will and Testament * then the administration of the estate is carried out under Florida*s intestacy probate rules.
The Summary Administration ProcessTo commence Summary Administration, a petition must be filed with the probate court. This may be done by any beneficiary or by the person nominated as the personal representative (also known as the executor) in the Will; for estates without a Will, this is usually carried out by one of the beneficiaries of the decedent, such as the surviving spouse or next of kin.
As set forth in Chapter 735 of the Florida Statutes, the petition must include the following information:
- Facts proving that the estate is eligible for Summary Administration.
- A complete list of the estate*s assets and their market value.
- Information regarding any debts or unpaid claims.
- A plan detailing how the assets will be distributed and to whom.
The petition must be signed and verified by the surviving spouse, if any. While there is no standard form for a Summary Administration petition, so long as it meets the criteria set forth in Chapter 735 of the Florida Statutes, it will be considered proper.
If the probate court accepts the petition as accurate and complete and other statutory requirements are met, it will issue an order for the distribution of the assets. Unlike in Formal Administration, there is no personal representative appointed * the probate court will give notice to creditors that the estate is undergoing Summary Administration and administer the distribution of assets once any claims are settled.
Protecting the Homestead PropertyIf the deceased had a primary residence in Florida, then the State*s homestead laws will apply alongside probate laws. A homestead determination is made via a separate petition that is filed in the Summary Administration proceeding. Once the petition to determine homestead is filed, the probate court must rule whether the deceased*s property was his homestead property before that homestead property can transfer automatically to the heir, as set forth in the Florida Constitution. Until this process is complete establishing the heir*s legal ownership of the homestead property, the heir will not have clear title to convey and a new buyer cannot be issued a title policy.
Note that the market value of the homestead property is not factored into the overall value of the estate with regard to the $75,000 or less value determination used to qualify for Summary Administration; if the homestead property is the only asset in the estate, it directly qualifies for Summary Administration regardless of its market value. This is because homestead is considered to be an *exempt* under Florida probate laws.
Often, an order for Summary Administration will be entered simultaneously with an order determining homestead. This increases the likelihood that Summary Administration will be complete within its usual duration of two to three months. However, depending on the circumstances of the estate, or if the probate judge requires it, a three-month creditor waiting period may be required before the order to determine homestead is entered.
Work with Specialists in Summary AdministrationAlthough Summary Administration is generally faster and simpler than Formal Administration, it still requires a lot of paperwork, due diligence, and legal knowledge to navigate smoothly. If a document is miswritten or misfiled, it could significantly delay the probate proceeding and lead to more expenses down the road. If there is a homestead property involved, it becomes even more important to work with a qualified attorney to ensure that the homestead property is properly classified as such and protected from certain creditor claims.