Estates Subject to Formal Administration
According to Florida law, if a decedent has been dead for more than two years, or if the value of an estate is not more than $75,000 (less the value of any property exempt from the claims of creditors), summary administration will generally be available. When an estate is not eligible for the summary administration process or another alternative under Florida law, distribution of the estate must proceed through the more involved and lengthier formal administration process.
The Formal Administration Process
Formal administration in Florida is initiated by filing a “Petition for Administration” and the original will of the deceased with the clerk of the circuit of the court in the county of the decedent’s residence. Florida law states that any interested person may file the Petition for Administration. The Petition for Administration requires the petitioner to provide detailed documents and materials to the court, including specific information about the decedent, petitioner(s) and beneficiaries of the estate, an inventory and approximate valuation of the decedent’s assets, and other important information necessary to probate the estate.
When the Petition for Administration is filed with the court, the judge will review the petition and documents and officially appoint a personal representative for the estate. If the decedent had a valid will naming a personal representative, the judge will admit the will and issue Letters of Administration, which serve as proof that the person named as the personal representative is the legally authorized personal representative for the estate. If the decedent did not have a valid will, the judge will appoint a personal representative for the estate.
The personal representative responsible for administering the estate has a number of important legal duties. The personal representative must identify, value and protect all of the assets in the estate. The representative must also publish a “Notice to Creditors” in a local newspaper and serve a “Notice of Administration” providing information about the probate administration and the procedures persons must follow when they have an objection to the administration of the estate. The Florida Probate Code sets forth detailed requirements for both of these notices along with the many other important legal duties the personal representative must fulfill. It is important for the personal representative to understand these duties and complete all of the steps necessary to properly close the estate.
Once all of the legal steps have been completed, a Florida probate lawyer will file a petition to close the estate with the court. The judge will review the petition and may request additional information in order to make certain that all of the legal requirements have been properly met. When the judge determines the estate is ready to be closed, he or she will sign an order that closes the formal administration and discharges the personal representative from further probate duties.