Summary administration is a shortened form of Florida probate that does not require the appointment of a Florida personal representative. Florida summary administration usually requires less time, effort, and expense than formal administration.
There are two ways in which an estate can qualify for summary administration in Florida. For summary administration to be available:
- The decedent must have been dead for more than two years, or
- The value of the entire estate subject to administration in Florida, less the value of property exempt from the claims of creditors, must not exceed $75,000.
How Summary Administration Works
Like a formal administration, a Florida summary administration starts with filing a petition in court. The petition for summary administration may be filed by any beneficiary or by a person nominated as a personal representative by the decedent’s will, but must be signed and verified by the surviving spouse (if any).
The probate rules require that the petition include facts showing that the estate is eligible for summary administration, a list of assets and their values, certain information about the estate’s debt, and a plan for distributing the assets. Once the court receives the petition and is satisfied that the estate qualifies, the court issues an order distributing the assets. Unlike a formal administration, a personal representative is not appointed.
The assets of the estate are immediately distributed to beneficiaries and creditors upon the entry of the order admitting the estate to probate.
Effect of Creditor Claims on Summary Administration
If the decedent has been dead for more than two years, creditor claims are not an issue. Florida has a two year nonclaim provision that effectively bars any creditor claims that are not brought within two years of the decedent’s death. Because of the nonclaim provision, creditor claims do not need to be addressed as part of the summary administration process if the decedent has been dead for more than two years.
If the decedent has not been dead for two years, creditor claims must be dealt with before an order of summary administration can be issued. Florida law requires the petitioner in a summary administration proceeding to “make a diligent search and reasonable inquiry for any known or reasonably ascertainable creditors, serve a copy of the petition on those creditors, and make provision for payment for those creditors to the extent that assets are available.”
Effect of Florida Homestead on Summary Administration
If the decedent owned a home in Florida that was used as a primary residence, Florida homestead law must be considered. A Florida homestead is a special type of asset. It passes automatically to a deceased person’s heirs pursuant to the Florida Constitution. But that doesn’t mean that the heirs have clear title (title that can be sold). Many title underwriters will require an Order Determining Homestead before issuing a title policy. Until then, the heirs will not have clear title.
If the decedent owned a Florida homestead, a separate proceeding to determine homestead must be brought along with a Florida summary administration. This can affect the timeline in some Florida counties. Most Florida probate judges will enter the Order Determining Homestead at the same time as the Order of Summary Administration. This allows the summary administration to be completed in the usual timeline, usually within four to eight weeks. A few judges, though, will require a three month waiting period before issuing the Order Determining Homestead, extending the summary administration by three months.
Florida homestead is not counted for purposes of determining whether the estate meets the $75,000.00 limitation. If the Florida homestead is the only asset of the estate, it will qualify for summary administration regardless of the value of the homestead.