What is Formal Administration?
Formal administration is Florida’s most common form of probate. When an estate does not qualify for summary administration, or some other alternative to probate administration, the estate must go through a process called formal administration. Formal administration requires close court supervision of the collection and distribution of the decedent’s estate.
Opening the Estate
The formal administration process begins with filing a Petition for Administration with the appropriate probate court. Your petition should have any related documents attached. When the petition and documents are filed, the estate becomes a matter of court record.
For the estate to be opened, the court must appoint a personal representative. In some cases, whom the decedent wishes to be appointed as the personal representative will be listed in the Last Will and Testament. The personal representative is charged with administering the decedent’s estate. Responsibilities of the personal representative include:
- Gathering the decedent’s estate assets;
- Finding and notifying the decedent’s creditors;
- Paying the decedent’s final bills, taxes, and administration fees; and
- Distributing the decedent’s assets to the beneficiaries.
Administering the Estate
Administration of the estate is usually the most complex phase of the probate process. The personal representative is responsible for gathering the necessary information to begin the administration process. Formal estate administration may include:
- Notifying creditors: The personal representative should publish a notice to creditors as soon as possible. The notice should contain information that identifies the estate and informs potential creditors of their right to bring claims against the estate during the probate proceedings. If the Personal representative knows of the existence of creditors, those creditors must be served with this notice.
- Process timely creditor claims: Most creditors who fail to submit a claim within three months of the date of notice publication are barred from bringing claims against the estate. Claims that are timely made, must be paid to creditors before the discharge of the estate. The personal representative will be responsible for making sure these claims are paid off.
- Collecting assets: The personal representative has the authority to take possession of all of the decedent’s assets during the process. The personal representative must manage the assets before and during distribution.
- Collecting debts: The personal representative must collect any outstanding debts owed to the decedent. This responsibility also includes bringing actions against debtors who refuse to pay.
- Inventory assets: The Personal representative should file an inventory of the decedent’s assets within 60 days of the issuance of letters of administration. The inventory includes a list of the property included in the estate and the fair market value of each asset.
- Determining Fees: There are a number of fees that will need to be paid off using the estate’s assets (ex: attorneys, accountants, appraisers). The personal representative will be in charge of making sure these fees are paid. If the estate has insufficient funds for payment of fees, Florida Law provides a priority of payment plan.
Closing the Estate
The estate can be closed as soon as the time has expired for creditors to make claims, all creditor claims and fees of administration have been paid, all tax returns have been filed, all taxes have been paid, and the assets are ready to be distributed.
The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm has a team of experienced Probate, Family and Estate Planning attorneys located in Coral Gables, Florida. 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 today to further discuss services.