Written by attorney David Phillip Folkenflik

What is Summary Administration Probate?

One of my previous articles gave a brief description of the probate process. The process that was described in that article was generally what we lawyers call "Formal Administration". In a Formal Administration it is necessary to appoint an executor (which, in Florida we call a "Personal Representative", or "P.R." for short). A probate which is handled as a Formal Administration, will ordinarily take a minimum of 6 to 8 months from start to finish, but, in complicated circumstances could take several years. Formal Administration can require a great deal of attorney time and effort, and can often cost thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars in attorney's fees and court costs.

Some probate estates are simply not large enough to make such an expenditure of attorney's fees and costs worthwhile. This is why, when someone dies with relately few assets and debts, there is a much quicker procedure available in Florida which is called "Summary Administration".

According to Florida Statutes Section 735.201, a probate will qualify as a Summary Administration if the deceased person's Will does not state that Formal Administration is required (By the way, I have rarely ever seen a Will that required Formal Administration in almost two decades of handling probate cases); and either:

(1) the total value of estate assets do not exceed $75,000 (not including assets exempt from creditor claims such as homestead real property, for example); or,

(2) the deceased person has been dead for more than 2 years.

The benefits of having an estate handled as a Summary Administration are many. The first of which is that, in most instances, a Summary Administration probate can be opened and closed within a few short months. The average Summary Administration which I have handled in my office in last couple of years has taken around 2 to 4 months, start to finish.

A Summary Administration can be started by your lawyer filing a fairly simple and straightforward Petition for Administration. Additionally, most Summary Administration probate cases can be completed without the necessity of any court hearings, as the majority of the proceedings are handled through paper pleadings. Because of this attorney's fees and court costs are usually substantially lower in a Summary Administration than would be expected in a Formal Administration.

There are some limitations on the types of property which can be probated by way of Summary Administration, and there are certainly many other factors which may come into play when determining whether or not a probate will qualify as a Summary Administration. For these reasons, it is always a good idea to consult with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible after the death of a loved one.

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