When a person dies, several claims of entitlement to the property owned by that person at death may arise, such as claims by family members or creditors. Some claims to property will already have been validated by a person during life through beneficiary designations, survivorship forms of ownership, or contractual liens or mortgages on specified property. When a person has not provided for automatic succession of ownership at death, a court-supervised process called “probate” is used to establish rights to a deceased individual’s property.
In Florida, the type of probate process required depends on the extent of exempt property, and the value of non-exempt probate property. Some property a person owns at death, such as a personal residence or an automobile, may be classified as “exempt property”, meaning it is able to be transferred to the rightful owner fairly quickly, and free and clear of creditors who do not hold a valid lien on such property. If non-exempt property does not exceed $75,000.00, a shortened form of probate called Summary Administration may be used, which does not require appointment of a personal representative, and is generally quicker and less expensive than Formal Administration. If Summary Administration is unable to be used, the required probate process is Formal Administration. Under Formal Administration, a personal representative is appointed, who oversees the probate process and ensures that valid creditor claims are paid or resolved, that funeral and administration expenses are paid, and that all remaining probate property is distributed to the rightful recipients. If the person passing away had a valid Last Will, the probate process is called “testate”. In a testate probate administration, the Last Will directs who is to serve as personal representative and how title to probate property is to pass, and to whom. If a person dies without a valid Last Will, the probate process is called “intestate”. In an intestate probate administration, a Florida Statute directs how title to probate property passes, and to whom, and the person appointed as personal representative in a Formal “Intestate” Administration will either be the person approved by all persons interested in the proceeding, or the person appointed by the Court after a hearing.
A Summary Administration generally takes between two (2) to four (4) months. A Formal Administration can take between six (6) months to one (1) year, and possibly longer if a U.S. Estate Tax Return is required (for larger estates with a value in excess of $11,580,000.00) or if probate property must be sold to pay claims, expenses or monetary bequests.
If you have any questions concerning probate or need assistance with probate administration, at Bob Bible Law we have the knowledge and over 30 years’ experience to help you navigate the probate process.