My Family Member Just Died… How do I Handle Their Belongings?

A loved one has recently passed away and you’ve decided to consult with an attorney. You want to know what your options are for probate aka “the estate process”. During this difficult time, attorneys will want to facilitate the process and one of the best options would be summary administration- the fastest and easiest form of probate. The attorney’s first question should be when did your family member die. If they passed away more than two years ago then your case qualifies for summary administration. However, if they passed away less than two years ago, then the next question will be what assets (belongings) did they leave behind. If the deceased left less than $75,000 in assets (not including homestead property and exempt property) then the case will likely qualify for a summary administration. Read on to find out if you or a loved one qualify.

What is a Summary Administration?

Summary administration is a shortened version of the probate process that does not require an appointment of a personal representative. When you are handling the administration of an estate that is worth less than a certain dollar amount ($75,000), you could petition for a summary administration and avoid the formal probate process. When an estate is eligible for summary administration there will typically be less time, effort, and expenses exhausted to administer the estate.

When does an Estate qualify for Summary Administration?

Summary administration is available in the following two scenarios:

  • The value of the entire estate subject to administration in Florida, exempt property, and homestead property does not exceed $75,000; or
  • The decedent has been dead for more than two years.

When determining whether an estate falls below the $75,000 limit, you should create a list of the assets making up the estate. Include only the assets passed on to beneficiaries/heirs in the decedent’s will or, if there is no will, refer to Florida’s Intestacy laws, which will determine who will inherit the estate.

You should also exclude assets held in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, retirement plans, payable on death bank accounts, and life insurance policies with named beneficiaries. These types of assets do not count towards the limit because they are automatically transferred to the named beneficiaries, as long as certain exceptions do not apply.

Summary Administration Procedures

Summary administration begins with filing a petition with the probate court. The petition may be filed by any beneficiary of the decedent’s estate.

Depending on the county in Florida where you are filing the petition, there may be requirements for other items that must be included with the petition. For example, some counties may require facts showing the estate qualifies for summary administration, a list of the assets and their respective values, and the decedent’s death certificate filed with the petition.

Petitioners must make a diligent search for any known or reasonably ascertainable creditors. In the petition, the petitioners are required to certify that they are not aware of any creditors or of any outstanding debts the decedent may have had if the loved one passed away less than two years ago. Once the court has entered an order for summary administration, and a creditor brings a claim against the decedent’s estate, the petitioners can be personally liable for the creditor’s claim but of course it depends!

However, when it has been more than two years since the decedent’s death, creditors will be barred from bringing claims.

Once the petition is properly filed, if the court determines the estate qualifies for summary administration, it will enter an order distributing the assets. The assets of the estate will be transferred to the beneficiaries and any creditors upon the entry of the order for summary administration.

After you’ve read this article and you’ve found that you have additional questions or think you might qualify for summary administration, be sure to call your trusted lawyer who has experience in probate court so they can get this resolved for you immediately.

The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm has a team of experienced Probate and Family attorneys located in Coral Gables, Florida. As attorneys who have extensive knowledge in Probate, we understand it can be a time-consuming and complicated process. If you are currently in need of a probate administration, contact us to set up an appointment to evaluate your options. We serve the entire state of Florida so call us for more information.