Types of Estate Administrations in Probate Proceedings

When a family or close friend dies, it is normal to ask what happens to the financial and personal effects of the deceased, and how one initiates the correct process for settling the deceased’s estate. The probate process is the method most people associate with distributing the assets of an estate, but it is a complicated process that many people find confusing at the front end. Basically, the purpose of probate, a court-supervised process, is to ascertain the assets of the deceased, pay outstanding debts and distribute the deceased’s property to the beneficiaries. A recent article on NBC News discusses the release of wills and probate records of 100 million Americans, dating from colonial times to the present, by the website Ancestry.com. The hope is this information will allow people to learn about their ancestors and provide a wealth of research material for scholars about the possessions and daily life of past Americans. These online records also reflect the fact the probate process is not new, and understanding the basic ways of administering an estate will help to prepare the estate plan that best meets your circumstances. A review of the types of estate administrations permitted under Florida law will appear below.

Formal Administration

This type of administration is the one most commonly used to settle an estate, and how complicated and lengthy this administration will depend on the size of the estate, the number of creditors, and if there is anyone contesting the will or other aspect of the proceeding.

There are number of possible steps to take to open and close an estate in a formal administration that depend upon the existence of estate planning documents and the types of assets owned by the deceased. These steps include:

  • if there is a will, filing it with the court;
  • proving the validity of the will;
  • submitting a petition for administration;
  • appointing a personal representative. For estates having a will, this person can be specifically named in the will, inferred from powers granted in the will, selected by the majority with interests in the will or appointed by the court. For estates without a will, or intestate, the surviving spouse, a person selected by the majority of the heirs or the heir nearest in relation can serve as representative;
  • publishing a notification to creditors;
  • submitting an inventory and accounting of deceased’s assets;
  • petitioning to open the safety deposit box;
  • taking control of the deceased’s property by the personal representative, minus the homestead;
  • a final accounting; and
  • if applicable, reopening the estate (for example, if more property is discovered).

Summary Administration

This administration is available for small estates of residents and non-residents. In order to qualify for summary administration, non-exempt assets (normally, everything other than the deceased’s home) must not exceed $75,000 in value or the deceased must have died more than two years ago.

Ancillary Administration

Ancillary administration is used for secondary estates where the deceased lived in another state but owned property in Florida at his/her death. These estates are administered under the same procedure used in formal and summary administrations.

Disposition of Personal Property without Administration

This administration is available under a limited set of circumstances. To qualify, estates must be solely composed of property exempt from creditor claims and non-exempt property worth less than sum of $6,000 for funeral expenses and the cost of medical expenses incurred by the deceased during the last 60 days of his/her life for the final illness.

Hire an Attorney

Deciding which type of estate administration is appropriate to distribute and dispose of a family member’s property is a crucial decision that can have far-reaching consequences if the incorrect choice is made. The Tampa law firm of Bubley & Bubley, P.A. is knowledgeable with a variety of trust and estate issues and will work with you to produce the best outcome for your situation. Contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation.

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