Formal Administration of Probate
Formal Administration is required when the non-exempt property of the decedent’s probate estate exceeds $75,000, and less than two years have passed since the decedent’s death. Formal administration is appropriate for both types of estates: testate (where a valid will exists) and intestate (if there is no will or the will is invalid, distribution of assets is controlled by Florida’s intestacy statutes, Chapter 732, Parts I – IV). If the will fails to dispose of the entire estate, certain assets within testate estates may descend under intestacy succession.
Summary administration saves costs and time; however, at the personal representative’s election, small estates can be administered formally. This may be beneficial, even if not required, if the estate has numerous or unknown creditors, or court supervision of distribution is desired. If the administration will be complicated or time-intensive, formal administration ensures payment of the personal representative, whereas the non-attorney involved in a summary administration typically is not compensated for his services.
The individual responsible for the protection, accounting, and distribution of estate assets in known in Florida as the Personal Representative (this comprehensive term replaces the titles executor / executrix (testate estates) & administrator / administratrix (intestate estates) in other jurisdictions). In Florida, unless the personal representative is either (a) the sole beneficiary of the estate or (b) a licensed Florida attorney, he or she must be represented by an attorney. The personal representative can take steps to preserve assets and collect information on the estate, but should generally contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Typically, the personal representative never has to go to court, and can work with our offices remotely. If a Florida resident passed away in any Florida country, we can handle any & all administration whether the personal representative wants to meet personally or conduct affairs remotely. We’re experienced in overseeing ancillary administrations of property owned in Florida by a non-resident decedent, whether the estate has been opened in another state or another country. If real property requires immediate attention for sale or otherwise, call us to facilitate the process.
Opening the Estate
The attorney files a Petition for Formal Administration, which requests that the court admit the will, if any, to probate, and appoint the personal representative. A death certificate, Once the circuit court judge signs the Order of Formal Administration, it issues Letters Testamentary, or Letters of Administration, empowering the personal representative to transact business on behalf of the estate. The personal representative then serves notice of administration on interested parties, and publishes and/or directly mails notice to creditors.
During the three month period for the filing of creditor claims, the personal representative inventories assets, and coordinates with accountants to prepare the decedent’s final taxes and the estate tax return, if required. The attorney may file petitions to determine protected homestead status for residential property, and objections to claims which are improperly filed or without merit.
Closing the Estate
If all beneficiaries waive notice of filing and consent to the Petition to Close the Estate, a formal accounting can be avoided, saving the estate time and expense. Without waiver and consent, the personal representative must compile all expenses, inventories, and disbursements from the estate. The formal accounting is filed with the personal representative’s proof of creditor satisfaction and beneficiary distribution. If all is in order, the court will close the estate and discharge the personal representative.