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Florida probate and summary versus formal administration

Probate is the process by which a person's property is distributed by a state upon his or her death, assuming that this person has not previously taken steps to bypass probate. Bypassing probate can be accomplished in a number of ways, depending on the circumstances. However, we will be discussing two options for how probate may be handled if it has not been avoided before the death of the person in question.

Probate is a process that takes place when an individual passes away and retains property in his or her name (as opposed to having placed property into the care of a trust, for example). In Florida, assets that are co-owned typically are allowed to pass directly to the respective co-owners, as are many assets that have designated recipients. However, for those things which a decedent, or person who has passed away, owns solely, probate is required, and may be approached one of two ways.

In some circumstances, probate through summary administration may be possible, assuming some conditions are met. For summary administration to be allowed in Florida, the estate must be valued at less than $75,000, and it must have been at least two years since the decedent passed away. While it is often a faster process, it is usually not possible if the decedent has unsettled debts.

Most probate is settled through formal administration, which can begin very soon after the decedent passes. This can take as much as two years to complete, or as little as six months if the affairs are simple enough and there no tax debts or creditors who make claims against the estate. Under a formal administration, a personal representative takes on the responsibility of sorting out all the lingering taxation, debt and asset dispersal efforts.

Regardless of which type of probate is most appropriate for a specific situation, it is not a matter to be approached haphazardly. If you are confronting a probate scenario, you may want to do yourself and those who are waiting on dispersal a favor and enlist the assistance of an experienced attorney who will know how best to navigate the Florida probate system to achieve the most expedient, lucrative outcome.

Source: Findlaw, "Florida Estate Procedures," accessed Nov. 16, 2016

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