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Summary Administration is a shortened form of Florida probate that is available only for estates that are “small” – meaning they do not exceed $75,000 in value – or under circumstances where the decedent has been dead for two years or more. If the decedent died having executed a valid last will and testament that specifically instructs for the estate to go through formal administration, summary administration will not be available.
A petition for summary administration can be filed with the probate court by any of the decedent’s beneficiaries or by the person appointed as the personal representative in the will. It is important to note that all beneficiaries must be notified of the petition, and they may join in the summary administration process by signing the petition; however, this is not necessary as long as every beneficiary receives proper notice of the filing of the petition.
In order to successfully obtain an Order of Summary Administration from the probate court, the summary administration petition must list every single one of the assets of the estate and the exact value of each and every asset. The petition must also include a schedule of all beneficiaries and a proposal for the distribution of the probate estate assets to the beneficiaries. Upon confirmation that all the requirements of summary administration under the Florida probate code have been successfully met, the court may issue an order of summary administration, authorizing the distribution of the assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries.
Just like in a formal administration, anyone seeking summary administration is obligated to diligently search for known or reasonably ascertainable creditors with interests in the estate. Such creditors should receive a copy of the petition for summary administration, and the petitioner must pay those creditors as long as there are assets available in the estate to fulfill the payments. The petitioner, however, will not be held liable on a personal level for any creditor claims beyond the value of the estate.
After the order of summary administration is issued, any beneficiary has the option to publish a notice to creditors in a local newspaper published in the county where the estate is being administered meant to notify all potential creditors that an order of summary administration has been issued by the probate court. The purpose of this step is to protect the decedent’s beneficiaries from any subsequent claims. The Florida probate code gives creditors a 3-month time limitation beginning from the date of the first publication to file claims against an estate. All creditors must file their claims against the estate with the court within that 90-day period. Any claims filed outside this period are forever barred.
Summary Administration – Not Always the Best Choice
Although summary administration is far less expensive and time-consuming than formal administration, it might not be the best choice in some situations even if it is available. Some of these situations include:
- The decedent’s estate assets are known, but there is a wrongful death lawsuit in progress that may require an appointed personal representative to prosecute the case on behalf of the decedent’s estate.
- There are federal tax liens or back taxes owed.
- There are several creditors who will undoubtedly require a formal accounting – which is an element of formal administration only – in order to consider negotiating the settlement of a debt.
- A property is in foreclosure and a personal representative needs to discuss alternatives to this situation with the bank.
- There are rent payments that need to be deposited as soon as possible.
Determining that Summary Administration is the Best Choice
The best way to be sure if Summary Administration is the best choice for your case is talking to an experienced Florida Probate Attorney. You must not rely on your intuition here. It is definitely necessary to have an experienced probate attorney make this determination with you in order to avoid unnecessary delays in the probate process, which could mean days, weeks, or even months of extra time for the administration to be completed.
At our Miami Probate Law Firm, Farshchian Law, P.A., our attorneys have several years of combined experience providing probate services throughout the beautiful State of Florida. When a loved one passes away and court proceedings are required, we understand you may feel overwhelmed with questions to which you do not necessarily have the answers. During an initial consultation, one of our attorneys will help you understand the estate administration process so that you know what awaits you. We will work as hard as we need to in order to make the Florida probate process as quick and simple for you as possible.