What is probate?
Probate is the court supervised distribution of a deceased person’s assets based on a Will, or on Florida law if a person died without a Will. Many small estates qualify for a summary administration that you can handle yourself without a lawyer. Larger estates may qualify as well if there has been no probate process started for two years.
What Estates Qualify?
There are two ways that an estate may qualify for Summary. The first way is when the value of the estate does not exceed $75,000, excluding the value of the decedent’s “homestead.” If the deceased owned a house worth $1,000,000 and has $69,000 in the bank, they are eligible for Florida Summary Administration because the homestead house is excluded. The other way an estate can qualify is if the person has been deceased for more than two years and there has been no prior probate proceeding. This second condition applies regardless of the value of the estate.
Petition to Determine Homestead Status
An important part of qualifying is the Petition to Determine Homestead Status. This can be done either before or at the same time that the Petition for Summary Administration is filed. The Order Determining Homestead is necessary for the estate to qualify, and is also needed for the heirs to have a clear title. If the property cannot be declared a homestead such as a second home or rental property, then it becomes part of the valuation of the estate.
When Summary is used to probate an estate more than two years after the person died, creditors are barred from making new claims. Recent estates are based on monetary value. Whomever submitted the estate for Summary Administration must make a “good faith effort” to locate creditors. This is usually done by publishing a “Notice To Creditors” in the local newspaper. If creditors are located, whomever filed must provide a copy of the petition to the creditor and the debts must be paid from the estate before money is distributed to heirs.