Probate is a court-supervised process for identifying and gathering the decedent’s assets, paying taxes, claims and expenses and distributing assets to beneficiaries.  Florida law establishes two types of probate administration, formal administration and summary administration.  There is also a non-administration proceeding called “disposition of personal property without administration.”


Generally, probate assets are those assets owned solely by the decedent and that contain no provisions for automatic succession of ownership at death.  Probate does not generally cover assets that are held jointly with rights of survivorship and assets distributed by contract, such as life insurance and annuities.  Property held in a trust also avoids the probate process. 


Florida law provides for additional exemptions from the probate estate, such as household furnishings, vehicles and so on.  Furthermore, the Florida constitution provides that homestead property vests immediately in the lawful heirs (blood relatives) upon death, and therefore is not generally a probate asset.


If the probate assets, not including the homestead property, do not exceed $75,000, the summary probate administration may be used.  Summary administration is generally less expensive and can take as little as a month to complete.  On the other hand, larger estates must go through formal administration and can take as long as one to two years to complete.


With both administration proceedings, an attorney must be used to file the necessary pleadings.  Probate papers are filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court, usually for the county where the decedent lived.  A Circuit Court Judge presides over probate proceedings.  Much of the probate process involves making sure all of the decedent’s creditors are paid before the heirs receive his or her respective distributions.


If the decedent created a revocable trust, the trustee is required to file a “notice of trust” with the court where the decedent lived, giving information concerning the grantor and the trustee.  Probate administration may still be required, if assets owned solely by the grantor are not funded into the revocable trust.

Phone:  954-366-3694

Fax:       954-302-4969



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