In order to make sure the decedent’s property is distributed according to his/her wishes and in compliance with Florida law, the specialized help of a probate lawyer is needed to collect assets, notify creditors of their right to make claims, pay debts, object to improper claims, resolve claims against the estate, and divide the remaining assets among beneficiaries. The attorney’s job is to protect the personal representative from liability for the manner in which he or she handles the estate. Here are the three most important types of probate in Florida:
However, estates are rarely straightforward and, in order to make sure the decedent’s property is managed according to his/her wishes, the specialized help of a probate lawyer is needed to collect assets, pay debts, solve claims against the estate, and divide it among beneficiaries. Here are the three most important types of probate in Florida:
Formal Administration is the most common form of probate in Florida used when the decedent has been dead less than two years and the value of the estate assets exceeds $75,000, excluding primary residence. This process can be carried out with or without a will, as follows:
Testate Formal Administration (the decedent leaves a will) involves the appointment of a personal representative by the Court to administer the estate proceeding. Typically, it can last between 6 to 12 months, except for the case when a federal estate tax return is required.
Intestate Formal Administration (the decedent leaves no will) requires a petition for the estate administration to be filed, after which the Court will appoint a personal representative to administer the estate proceeding. Florida Statutes, sections 732.101 through 732.111 describes all aspects regarding intestate succession and how the spouse’s share and the share of other heirs are established.
Summary Administration is often the easiest and least expensive type of probate in Florida, but can only be carried out if the value of the estate assets doesn’t exceed $75,000, not including primary residence. It can be done regardless of whether there is a will or not and typically does not require the appointment of a personal representative. Summary administration usually takes 2 to 3 months to complete from the date of the filing of the petition, but can be prolonged in case a petitioner decides to provide notice to creditors.
Ancillary Administration (targeting additional assets) is carried out if a non-resident of Florida dies having real estate property in Florida, and requires the appointment of a personal representative to administer the estate proceeding. In case of personal property such as bank accounts, bonds, stocks, and others, the process is less complicated: the personal representative is simply required to provide evidence of death and have the property liquidated.
Non-probate assets are generally not subject to court supervision, since they pass outside the decedent’s probate estate, and are defined as “assets in which the title has already been transferred within a decedent’s lifetime, or assets in which the transfer of title is controlled by some sort of survivorship mechanism. These assets are not probated, meaning that they are not distributed according to the decedent’s will in probate court. Will substitutes are non-probate assets.”
A specialized probate lawyer with many years of experience can easily handle probate matters in all Florida courts, being able to move estate assets through the probate process as cost-efficiently as possible. Call Wintter& Associates, P.A. at 954.920.7014 (Hollywood), 305.948.6788 (Miami-Dade), or 561.470.3448 (Boca Raton) or visit www.wintterlaw.com to schedule a free consultation and find out whether a formal probate administration is required in your case.
About the Author
Christopher Q. Wintter is the founder of Wintter & Associates, P.A. and a board-certified expert in Trust and Estate matters by the Florida Bar. With more than 24 years’ experience as a practicing attorney, he also serves as an instructor and faculty member for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA)—the nation’s leading provider of legal advocacy skills training to practicing attorneys—and has earned the AV® Preeminent™ rating with LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell. He was also selected for inclusion in Florida Super Lawyers for 2011 and 2012 in Estate and Trust Litigation.