Florida provides two ways to settle small estates without going through the often time-consuming and costly process of probate. A procedure called Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration allows beneficiaries to quickly and inexpensively settle a very small estate that is no larger than the deceased’s funeral expenses and medical expenses for the previous 60 days. Summary administration is another approach for somewhat larger Florida estates worth up to $75,000. Talk to a financial advisor to help you plan your estate.
How Florida Probate Law Provides for Small Estates
Unlike many states. Florida does not allow small estates to be settled using small estate affidavits rather than going through probate. Instead, when someone dies in Florida leaving a small estate, there are two other procedures available to the heirs and beneficiaries who want to avoid probate.
The first is called Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration. This approach is primarily intended to allow a survivor to recoup expenses for the funeral as well as medical care for the last 60 days of the deceased’s life. Only estates valued less than the sum of these costs are eligible for the Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration.
The second method, Summary Administration, is for larger estates up to $75,000 in value. It is faster and less costly than the conventional formal administration of a probate and can transfer real estate as well as personal property.
What Is Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration?
Only very small estates are eligible for settlement using the Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration. The maximum estate size is limited to the combined total of funeral expenses and medical care provided during the last 60 days the deceased was alive. For people who die without leaving a will, the cap is $10,000.
The estate can be larger if there was a will. Without providing a specific cap, Florida law allows survivors including a spouse and children to exempt certain assets from the estate size. Exempt assets can include furniture up to $20,000, two vehicles and college savings accounts. The home of the deceased person can also be considered an exempt asset for purposes of calculating estate size, but real estate can’t be transferred using this process.
To use the Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration, survivors must file a petition with the probate court. The petition has to include:
- Copies of paid bills for the funeral expense and medical care costs incurred during the final 60 days.
- A certified copy of the death certificate
- The will, if one exists.
- Account statement or similar document for the asset being transferred.
- Signed and notarized consent forms from anyone who paid funeral and final medical costs but are agreeing to the person filing the petition to collect the assets.
The petition is filed with the clerk of the county court where the deceased person last lived. The court will require a filing fee, which may vary depending on the local court.
What Is Summary Administration?
Summary Administration is an alternative to the often lengthy and expensive process of administering an estate through probate. In most states, it is the form of estate settlement that uses the small estate affidavit. In Florida, there is no small estate affidavit but Summary Administration can be used instead.
Speed and cost savings are the attractions of Summary Administration. Rather than taking months or years as probate can, summary administration can accomplish a transfer of assets almost immediately after someone’s death.
To use Summary Administration requires filing a petition with the probate court. It also requires doing the following:
- Valuing the estate, which can consist of no more than $75,000 in assets.
- Notifying anyone who is a potential beneficiary, including spouses, children and other family members and, if possible, getting them to sign the petition.
- Notifying creditors through a newspaper advertisement.
The asset calculation can include real estate and any debts owed by the estate are subtracted in order to arrive at the value.
Summary Administration can be used without a will. However, if one exists and it calls for going through full formal probate administration, Summary Administration is not an option. After the newspaper ad has run for two weeks, creditors get three months to submit claims.
Pros of Florida’s Approach to Small Estates
Florida’s unique manner of handling small estate settlement has the significant advantage of bypassing full probate, which means:
- Significantly less time to settle the estate
- Potentially much lower costs
- No waiting period after the death to begin the process
Estates settled using Summary Administration can also include real estate, which is different from many states’ rules for small estate affidavits.
Cons of Florida’s Approach to Small Estates
Florida’s methods also have some drawbacks, including:
- Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration only works with very small estates
- Successors have to file a petition with the probate court.
- Creditors have to be notified via newspaper ad when using Summary Administration
The Bottom Line
While Florida does not allow the use of small estate affidavits available in many other states, the state does provide two ways to settle small estates without going through a full probate process. Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration allows a successor to collect funeral and final medical expenses from very small estates. For estates up to $75,000, the Summary Administration process can be used to transfer personal and real property by filing a petition with the probate court.
Tips for Estate Planning
- Estate planning is difficult, especially as you’re trying to limit time and taxes for the next generation without any professional advice. A financial advisor can help you with estate planning and other financial matters. Finding a qualified financial advisor who can help doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- There’s a lot more to inheritance in Florida than these two methods for settling small estates. To get all the details about succession, taxes, wills and more in SmartAsset’s comprehensive guide to inheritance in Florida.
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