There are basically two different types of Probate proceedings in the state of Florida.
1. Summary Administration
The first type is called a Summary Administration. This is an abbreviated probate when there are less than $75,000 of assets. The $75,000 does not include the decedent’s homestead. In other words, you can proceed with this type of probate when there is a homestead and assets up to $75,000 in addition to the homestead.
Your attorney will file a Petition for Summary Administration and a Proposed Order FOR Summary Administration listing the assets and proposed distributions to beneficiaries.
If there is a Last Will and Testament, the beneficiaries will be ascertained from it. If not, the beneficiaries are predetermined by Florida law and will be listed accordingly.
If the court reviews the Order of Summary Administration and approves/signs it, then the Summary Administration is complete. The Order can be submitted to liquidate/transfer assets. Please note that a couple of other pleadings may need to be filed with a Summary Administration, depending on the assets of the estate.
A Summary Administration should not be opened if there are several creditors, or there are assets that are more complex/will be difficult to liquidate. If this is the case, your attorney will advise you to open a Formal Administration. A Summary Administration generally takes 6-8 weeks to complete. A Formal Administration can take anywhere from 3.5 months to years depending on the number and complexity of assets and distributions.
2. Formal Administration
The second type of Probate is called a Formal Administration. Your attorney will file initial pleadings such as a Petition for Formal Administration and various documents to ensure the Personal Representative is appointed and provided Letters of Administrations (“LOA’s). LOA’s is a document that is signed by the judge giving the Personal Representative the authority to sell/transfer assets and make beneficiary distributions.
If there is a Last Will and Testament, the Personal Representative will be ascertained and appointed based on it. If there is no will, any interested party can ask the court to be appointed as Personal Representative. The beneficiary who will receive the most according to Florida law has a preference of appointment as Personal Representative.
After the Personal Representative is appointed, the Attorney will assist them with bill pay, filing a Notice to Creditors, and asset liquidation/transfers. The creditor period will last for 3 months. During this time an Inventory of assets will also be submitted to the court.
After the creditor period, payment of creditors/settlement of claims, and asset liquidations/transfers, the Attorney will prepare a Final Accounting for review/signature by the Personal Representative. It will outline the assets, bills paid, Attorney’s fees/costs, Personal Representative fees/costs, and beneficiary distributions. This Accounting will be submitted to the court for approval.
After the distributions to beneficiaries and Final Accounting, the attorney will submit pleadings to the court to close the probate. These pleadings Include Receipt of Assets/Shares by Beneficiaries, Petition for Discharge, and Proposed Order for Discharge. The court will review the file to ensure that everything is complete and sign the Order for Discharge.
Please note that along the way, there are several additional documents that will be filed with the court by the attorney. Some are mandatory and some will be unique to the probate due to the decedent’s assets and debts.