What is the Difference Between Summary and Formal Probate Administration?

When you are dealing with the death of a loved one, trying to simultaneously make sense of the legal issues that your loved one has left behind is challenging. The Florida probate administration lawyers of Kramer, Green, Zuckerman, Greene & Buchsbaum, P.A. can answer your questions and calm your concerns in this situation. In addition, we can handle any needed probate court proceedings on your behalf while you focus on your family’s needs during this difficult time.

Probate Administration: Opening an Estate

When your loved one dies owning probate assets, you must open an estate for administration in court. Probate assets do not have a named beneficiary, a payable-upon-death provision, a joint owner, or a survivorship provision. As a result, you need a court order to distribute the probate assets of the deceased to the rightful beneficiaries.

Florida law provides for two types of probate administration: summary and formal administration. Summary administration is often quicker and less complex, but it is an available option in only some circumstances. In other cases, formal administration may be the only option available to you.

Summary Administration

Summary administration is only available when:

  • the total value of the decedent’s probate assets is $75,000 or less (other than the protected homestead), and the decedent had no creditors (or all creditors will be paid, OR
  • the decedent passed away more than two years ago.

As a practical matter, summary administration is only feasible when the family knows the location and value of all the decedent’s assets. However, this type of administration is typically quicker than formal administration, lasting only three to six months on average, as opposed to six to 18 months. In addition, summary administration is usually less complicated, as the court requires less documentation and therefore is less expensive to complete.

Unlike in a formal administration, the court does not appoint a Personal Representative for the estate in a summary administration. The lack of appointment of a Personal Representative can make it difficult for heirs to get information about probate assets from banks and other financial institutions or discover hidden assets. Likewise, the court does not issue Letters of Administration in a summary administration, which gives an heir the authority to talk to a mortgage company, the IRS, or other institutions about the deceased’s affairs. If Letters of Administration are necessary or a dispute arises concerning the deceased’s assets, then a summary administration likely will be inadequate.

Formal Administration

Formal administration is much longer, costlier, and more complex than summary administration. While the average length of formal administration is six to 18 months, it can take longer if there are difficulties selling a home, litigation, or collections cases. Formal administration also typically requires more work, more documentation of assets and creditors, and a longer time for heirs to receive their inheritance.

This process requires the appointment of a Personal Representative for the estate and the issuance of Letters of Administration. The Personal Representative has the authority to get information about the decedent’s assets and debts, negotiate and settle claims of any creditors to the estate, file tax returns, and liquidate property. Banks and financial institutions generally accept Letters of Administration from the Personal Representative to turn over assets to the estate for distribution. If any disputes arise that require litigation, the Personal Representative is the party with standing to defend the estate.

Contact Kramer Green to Learn More About Probate Administration

The Florida probate administration attorneys of Kramer, Green, Zuckerman, Greene & Buchsbaum, P.A. are ready to help you and your family through every step of the probate administration process. We know how to best handle these proceedings to make them as efficient, simple, and straightforward as possible to meet your family’s goals.

Our objective is to handle the complex legal matters that an estate administration can involve on your behalf while you and your family focus on dealing with the loss of your loved one. Contact our office today at (954) 966-2112 or reach out to us online to schedule a time to discuss your legal estate issues with our attorneys.

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