Transferring Property Upon Death in Florida

Naturally, the laws on inheritance vary from one state to another.

However, there are a few laws that remain commonplace across the board. Summary and Formal administration are the “standard” forms of probate administration. These govern deaths for residents of the entire state of Florida, although there are other alternatives.

Here’s a look at each option in detail in a bid to uncover how transferring property upon death in Florida works:

1) Summary administration

This type is not too popular and varies based on the size of the estate.

You can think of it as a hastened form of probate. It gets around the need for legal representation and is consequently, less expensive, and less time consuming compared to the formal alternative.

The prerequisites or qualifications for summary administration of an estate under Florida laws include:

  • The death occurred more than two years prior to administration, or
  • The value of the estate in its entirety, including any non-exempt property, should be less than $75,000.
    • A figure that authorities arrive at after taking out property value owed to creditor claims.

However, a will stipulating the wishes of the deceased may alter the court’s stance on this matter.

If the deceased instructed the pursuit of formal probate, it will render summary administration impossible.

A legal will that nullifies any application for the shortened transfer of assets will win out in the court system, even if it meets both requirements.

How it works

So let’s say you qualify for summary administration. This doesn’t necessarily mean the process will be painless. It’s unlikely your relative will take their last breath on a Friday, and all of their assets will be transferred by the following Monday.

The process of summary administration begins with the filing of a petition in court.

Beneficiaries are eligible to file an appeal, as is a personal representative.

For one to be a legally recognized representative of the estate, he/she must be substantiated as such in the Will, which a surviving spouse (if any) must have approved by signage prior to the person’s death.

Once the court is pleased with the preliminaries, it will allocate assets through an order.

This process can take several weeks.

2) Formal administration

This probate is the most common type in the state of Florida. As a result of the large population of retirees, many Floridians have a Will. Furthermore, they also usually have a Trust, and thorough depiction of what they’d like done with their assets upon death.

This type of probate is ideal if an estate is short of the requirements for summary administration.

It typically entails three processes as follows:

  • Estate opening:
    • As with the former, formal administration also begins with an attorney filing a petition to make relevant documents part of court records.
    • The judge will look through the paperwork and issue a letter of administration.
    • Afterward, a personal representative for the estate is appointed.
  • Administration:
    • This part is the most hectic. It entails proportional taxing of assets, determining fees going to agents for various services, handling unmatured claims, and processing creditors’ claims.
    • This phase also involves rights identification for the beneficiary and carrying on the decedent’s business in a reasonable way to ensure value preservation.
    • It is at this stage, and within four months from the representative’s appointment, that interested parties can file objections.
    • If any objections are filed against your families’ petition, such as an objection from a greedy creditor, this can drag the process on even longer.
  • Estate closing:
    • Another petition is necessary to end proceedings, and it should evidence that all the required steps have been fulfilled.
    • Once everything is in order, the court issues an Order of Discharge which executes asset distribution.
    • The entire process takes a minimum of 4 to 6 months.

Disposition Without Administration:

This is a process disposing of the property but requiring no administration or formal proceedings.

The estate must consist solely of exempt personal property, as defined by law, with a net value of $20,000 on the date of death. 

The non-exempt property must not exceed the sum of funeral expenses (up to $6,000) and reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses. Those expenses must take place in the last 60 days of the last illness before the person’s death.

This form of administration is only applicable in very narrow and specific circumstances.

It won’t apply to most estates.

Further, you can accomplish this without a lawyer. 

The Clerk of Court in the county where the person passed away should be able to help with filling out the proper forms.

For Disposition without Administration, the case in question only involves personal property, which is:

  • Worth no more than $20,000 and the financial total of the decedent’s medical bills for the past two months and funeral costs.
  • Freeform creditor claims due it not being part of the homestead as determined by the constitution of Florida.
  • Exempt as stipulated by particular state laws.

Ancillary Administration:

A decedent who is a resident of another state or country may have assets in Florida. Assets such as a summer home qualify for this type of probate administration. 

In this case, a local probate attorney can file a petition on your behalf if you are a beneficiary living out-of-state.

Traditionally, the probate first opens in the state or country in which the deceased person last resided. 

However, if they owned property in Florida, where they did not live or die, then a separate probate must be opened in Florida.

We refer to this type of probate as “ancillary administration.”  

Certified copies of the probate documents from the other state or country are filed in Florida. Then a new Florida probate estate begins.  The Florida probate continues in the same manner as a normal Florida probate estate (Either by Formal Administration or, if it qualifies, by Summary Administration).

In summary, Ancillary Administration involves the overseeing of an out-of-state resident’s estate. This course of action proves suitable if the property has liens in the state of Florida, or if an outstanding balance is owed to creditors.

Depositing of Will:

Even though there are no probate proceedings in-motion, the custodian of a will must deposit the will with the Clerk of Court.

This must be done on behalf of the decedent and the estate. It must be filed within 10 days after receiving information that the testator is dead.

If an administration opens at a later date, the deposited will is placed in the probate administrative file at that time and remains valid.

If the will is not present in a timely fashion, it may become invalid.

Admitting Foreign Will to Probate:

This procedure begins when a decedent with a will dies in another state.

Sometimes an illness or accident occurs while on vacation, and this can complicate things if you haven’t already set up a legal will & trust.

When this occurs, probate proceedings open where the person dies, yet the decedent still owns real property in Florida. 

At this point, you should have a copy of the will from the other state sent to the Florida probate courts. A court order then admits the will to probate in Florida. This passes title to the Florida real property, to beneficiaries depicted in the will.

This may sound complicated but if the decedent has their estate documents in order, it can be a very smooth process.

3) Other alternatives

Beyond the two basic types of probate administration, there are also Ancillary Administration and “Disposition without Administration” alternatives. Determining which type of administration you qualify for depends on very specific criteria.

To save some time, schedule an appointment or give us a call.

That’s Florida probate law in a nutshell.