Summary Administration is governed under Florida Statutes 735.201 to 735.304, and Formal Probate Administration is governed under Florida Statutes Chapter 731 through Chapter 734.
In a nutshell, Summary Administration is only available when the total value of the Estate Assets is less than $75,000, or the decedent has been dead for more than two years. Formal Administration must be done for every estate where the value of the Estate Assets exceeds $75,000. The usual evaluation criteria is a cost/benefit analysis balancing the cost of the legal services, the time involved for completion and transfer of the assets, and the risk of dealing with creditor claims.
There are some important differences between Summary Administration and Formal Probate Administration that should be understood before the outset of either course of action. More often than not, the decision to elect to do Summary Administration may be straightforward and the right course of action, but there are some pitfalls that should be considered in making this decision.
First, with Summary of Administration, the Probate Court will not issue Letters of Administration but will instead issue an Order of Summary Administration that directs for the specific transfer of an asset by a financial institution to an heir or group of heirs. If additional assets are later found, the whole process for Summary Administration must be done again. Second, the heirs must accept personal responsibility to satisfy any creditor claims that may be later presented up to the asset's value transferred by the Order of Summary Administration. This can be a nightmare when there are multiple creditor claims presented or when there are multiple heirs involved because recovery of the asset may have already been spent or sold, and cooperation between the heirs may be non-existent. It may be more expedient and desirable to conduct a Formal Probate Administration to avoid these difficulties.
An experienced probate attorney will help you navigate whether a Summary Administration or a Formal Probate Administration is the appropriate course to take based not only on the value of the Estate assets but also on the totality of the circumstances of the potential creditors, the relationship between heirs, and the value of the assets.
The decision may not be as straightforward as you might first think.
Shawn can not offer legal advice in this format. He can only provide general information that you may find helpful. You should call an attorney and seek specific legal advice if you need legal guidance you can rely on for your situation.
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Law Office of Shawn C. Newman, P.A.
710 Northeast 26th Street
Wilton Manors, FL 33305-1238
Phone: (954) 563-9160
Serving all of the greater Fort Lauderdale area and Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade counties in Southern Florida.