WHAT IS SUMMARY ADMINISTRATION
HOW DO I KNOW IF THIS ESTATE QUALIFIES TO USE IT?
When a person dies, there are a number of matters that must be tended to. The law is designed to make sure that any debts or taxes owed by the decedent get paid before the heirs receive anything. Another concern of the law is to make sure that the assets remaining after payment of debts and taxes get to the correct people. If there is a Will, the beneficiaries are determined by reading that document. If there is no Will, the laws of Florida dictate who inherits.
The legal procedure for making sure the above objectives are accomplished is called probate. Probate can be an expensive process and will last at least three months. Probate is a necessary step in getting legal title to assets transferred from the deceased to the heirs whether or not the decedent left a Will.
The legislature has provided an alternate process for transferring title in small estates without going through all of the normal steps of probate. The brief procedure is called Summary Administration.
Two kinds of estates qualify for Summary Administration:
1. Estates where the total value of the assets in the decedentís name is less than $75,000 and all of the decedentís debts have been paid or arrangements for their payment satisfactory to the creditor have been made.
2. Estates where the decedent has been dead for more than two years, regardless of the value of the assets and regardless of whether the decedent owed money.
Summary Administration involves the following steps:
beneficiaries sign a petition prepared by an attorney asking the court to admit
the Last Will (if there is one). In the petition, the beneficiaries swear under oath that they know of no
later Will, that they know of no debts owed by the decedent and that the assets
listed in the petition are the only ones they know of that belonged to the
decedent. Finally, the petition sets forth how the assets should be
2. The attorney files the Petition for Summary Administration along with a copy of the paid funeral bill and an affidavit of a long-time acquaintance that the decedent did not customarily accumulate significant debt. The documents are filed with the Clerk of Court where a filing fee is paid.
3. The attorney asks the Judge to enter an order declaring the will (if there is one) to
be the decedentís Last Will and to direct distribution of the assets as requested in the petition.
4. If the Clerk and the Judge find everything to be in order, the Judge will sign an Order of Administration. The document will direct the distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries as requested in the petition.
5. The Order of Summary Administration is the equivalent of a deed. It is recorded and officially transfers ownership of any of the decedentís property to the beneficiaries. From that point on, the beneficiaries have clear title to the assets and may do with them as they wish. Of course, any asset which ends up titled in the names of more than one person cannot be sold, mortgaged or leased without the consent of all of the owners.
Copyright 2005 by
Frederick R. Short, Jr.
Attorney at Law