Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy—the heartache, stress, and pain of these times can be agonizing. And as if that’s not enough, there are all the technical issues that need to be sorted out as well—spreading the word, making funeral arrangements, and executing the will. Following the death of a loved one, getting involved in complicated legal issues is probably the last thing that anybody wants to do. Unfortunately, they are sometimes unavoidable.
Before you get too deeply involved with sorting out assets, be sure that you fully understand Florida’s probate administration laws. In cases that go through probate (i.e., go through court), two types of administration are possible: Formal and summary.
In a formal administration process, the personal representative (i.e., the individaul who was named “executor” of the will in the will, or, if no individual was named, the person who is appointed) requests that the court takes responsibility for representing the estate.
The court is thus made an active player in the execution of the will (or the division of assets, if no will is present). The court issues a “Letters of Administration” document, which gives power to the original executor to settle the estate. If a will is present, the court must prove that it is valid. This can be done one of two ways: either witnesses testify under oath that it is valid; or, if the will is “self-proving” (meaning that the witnesses signed a statement in front of a notary public as they watched the deceased sign the will), you can simply submit the document to the court without a witness.
Once that has been settled, the personal representative gathers all of the deceased individual’s assets and, after paying off whatever debts he or she owed, distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. Once this process is finished, the representative must submit a formal account to the court, detailing all of the actions that were taken with the deceased’s assets.
Formal administration also allows for objections to be heard in court.
In summary administration, the court is involved significantly less. Summary administration is most often used when the assets of the will total less than $75,000.
In a summary administration, the personal representative is either named in the will or, if no will was present, was appointed. This representative files a Petition for Summary Administration, which must contain the signature of the surviving spouse, if one exists. The petition must also be signed by all of the deceased’s beneficiaries and must contain three things:
- A statement explaining that the estate qualifies for summary administration
- A list of the deceased’s assets and their values
- A list of which beneficiaries inherit which assets
After the petition is signed and approved, the court simply issues an order officially releasing the assets to the beneficiaries.
For Clarification and More Information, Speak to a Professional
It may seem relatively simple, but like all legal matters, probate administration can be extremely complex.
The probate attorneys at Wintter & Associates, P.A are experienced professionals who understand Florida law and can help you administer an estate in the smoothest way possible.
If you’re dealing with a probate issue, you deserve to speak to with lawyers who understand the law as well as the personal side of probate administration. Get in touch with Wintter & Associates, P.A today to discuss your options.
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.