How to Probate a Small Estate in Florida

By Kay Lee

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.

Probate Process

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.

Exempt Property

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.

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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

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.

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Florida Laws on Estate Disbursement


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How to Probate an Estate in Maryland

Probate procedure in Maryland is determined by the value of the estate. Regular estates require appointment of a personal representative and the complete probate process, as opposed to small estates, which are allowed abbreviated probate procedures. The entire process for both regular and small estates is explained by the Maryland Registry of Wills for individuals who want to navigate the probate process without attorney representation.

How to Wind Up the Estate

Winding up an estate may require probate, regardless of whether the deceased left a will. Legally transferring title to a decedent's property is a process that every state addresses for its residents. Many states allow estates with no real property and only a small amount of personal property to wind up without probate, while other states usually require the appointment of a personal representative, identification of heirs or beneficiaries, publication of notice to creditors, and property inventory and appraisal before a decedent's property is finally distributed.

What Has to Be Appraised for an Estate?

The purpose of probate is to pay the debts, funeral costs and taxes of a deceased person’s estate and transfer the remaining assets to his beneficiaries. The word probate is derived from the Latin word “probatio,” meaning to prove. Probate can be described as the process of proving a decedent's estate is being administered according to law. With that in mind, appraisals are used to prove the true value of assets are accounted for when they are transferred.

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