When someone dies in Florida, the decedent’s estate must go through probate in court. Probate is the legal process of proving the validity of a will and distributing the decedent’s assets to his/her beneficiaries.
If an estate does not qualify for a summary administration and there is no alternative solution to avoid probate, the responsible court will proceed to formally administer it. Depending on the case, formal administration may be an expensive probate proceeding.
In this article, you will find out the essentials about formal administration in Florida.
Summary Administration vs. Formal Administration – Understanding the Difference
In essence, the main difference between summary and formal administration is the appointment of a personal representative. Formal administration is the traditional form of probating someone’s estate in Florida, initiated with a petition to appoint a personal representative in court.
Instead, summary administration does not require the appointment of a personal representative to administer the decedent’s estate. Consequently, it tends to affect the process positively, expediting processing time and reducing associated costs.
Yet, an estate must qualify for summary administration to avoid being formally administered in court. In Florida, an estate qualifies for summary administration if the decedent has been dead for more than two years or the estate’s total value subject to probate amounts to $75,000 or less.
What is a Formal Administration in Florida? – In Detail
The primary aspect of formally administering someone’s estate upon death is the close supervision of a probate court throughout the entire process. A formal administration has the main phases – opening the decedent’s estate, administering the estate, and closing the estate.
The process initiates when the responsible individual(s) file a Petition for Administration in a Florida probate court. After filing the required documents and providing the related documentation, it is time to appoint a personal representative to act on the estate’s behalf.
Up until the personal representative is appointed, the formal administration is not considered to have been officially opened. Once the responsible judge reviews the submitted files and proceeds to issue Letters of Administration, the process is opened.
Formally administering the decedent’s estate requires several steps, including the payment of any outstanding debt(s) and the distribution of the remaining assets to their respective beneficiaries.
The personal representative has the authority to deal with creditors, negotiating any existing claims to the decedent’s assets and rejecting eventual invalid claims from creditors. Florida law provides that a personal representative has a fiduciary duty to the estate and its beneficiaries.
Consequently, the personal representative must act only in the best interest of the estate’s beneficiaries to protect the decedent’s legacy and ensure the fulfillment of his/her wishes upon death.
Another important aspect of formal administration is dealing with fees and estate taxes. If the decedent’s estate does not provide sufficient funds to pay for the necessary services, state law provides a list of priority payments.
It is crucial to note that any failure to specify the specific assets within the estate from which taxes must be paid, the estate is taxed proportionally. Consequently, all the residuary estate is taxed, which is far from ideal.
Typically, formally administering an estate in Florida may require six to 18 months. After completing all the necessary steps, the personal representative must proceed to close the probate proceeds.
Ensure a Smooth Formal Administration in Florida – Work with an Expert Probate Attorney
It is impossible to detail every aspect involved in Florida’s formal administration within a single article. If you need to formally administer an estate and avoid headaches, waste no time exposed to unnecessary risk.