To open probate proceedings for both testate and intestate estates (those with and without a valid will, respectively), a petition for administration and the requisite clerk’s fee is filed in the county where the decedent lived.  Probate clears title to real property, deals with creditor claims and final estate taxes, and oversees distribution of the remaining assets.

Which type of probate is undertaken depends on the assets within the “probate estate” — which excludes, for instance, property titled as joint tenants with right of survivorship, transfer or pay on death accounts, and life insurance policies not payable to the decedent’s estate.  A probate attorney should review all accounts and properties, however, as some non-probate assets will owe taxes, and certain gifts or trusts may be “retrievable” if the debts of an estate exceed its assets.

Formal Administration in Florida

Formal administration can be completed as quickly as four to six months in Florida, and proper adherence to the probate rules ensures protection from late-claiming creditors of the decedent.  The personal representative (formerly called an executor, executrix, administrator, or administratrix) is paid from the estate for his services, which include overseeing assets during probate, corresponding with creditors and beneficiaries or heirs, and working with an attorney and the courts.

Summary Administration in Florida

Summary administration, FL Statutes Chapter 735, is a simplified procedure available for estates under $75,000, and larger estates wherein the majority of assets will pass outside probate.  Among the drawbacks to a summary proceeding is extended liability to late-claiming creditors, due to the lack of a formal notice and response period.

Further Information

Visit the Florida Bar Website for an overview of the probate process in Florida, including the duties of the personal representative and the rights of creditors and beneficiaries of the estate.

Click here for a list of documents and information to bring to an initial meeting with your Florida probate attorney.

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