There are often complaints about the expense and length of time the probate process takes. Given this is an emotional time for a decedent's heirs and beneficiaries, states have developed ways to fast-track smaller estates through the system. The State of Florida has a few methods that simplify the traditional probate process for such estates.
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The probate process is one in which a decedent’s estate is officially transferred to his beneficiaries and heirs. Probate is administered through the judicial system and each state has its own laws regarding administration. In Florida, the probate process is initiated in the county where the decedent legally resided at the time of his death.
In order to determine whether an estate qualifies as a small estate, and thus expedited probate, the value of the estate must be determined minus the amount of any exempt property. Under Florida law, most personal property is considered exempt as well as household furniture, appliances and furnishings worth up to $20,000, two motor vehicles, qualified tuition programs, and certain benefits.
Disposition without Administration
If an estate is very small, it may qualify for disposition without administration under Florida law. This means an heir or beneficiary may petition the court to simply transfer the estate. Each Florida county establishes the threshold value an estate must have to qualify for this type of probate, but typically the threshold is $6,000. The estate must contain only personal property that is either exempt under Florida estate law, exempt from creditors as part of the homestead, or worth less than the total amount of funeral expenses and reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses incurred during the last 60 days of the decedent’s life.
Summary administration is another option for Florida estates that are small, allowing for estate assets to be distributed quickly. To qualify for summary administration, the decedent must have been dead for at least two years or the value of the estate does not exceed $75,000. The $75,000 requirement is in addition to the value of the residential home, if applicable. However, if a decedent had a will and the will required formal probate, the estate will not qualify for summary administration. This type of probate process begins with the filing of a petition for summary administration. Once the court has reviewed the filing and determined it qualifies, an order will be issued that distributes the estate assets.