What Is Summary Administration?

Summary administration is an alternative to formal probate that is quicker and less expensive. To file for summary administration, you must have less than $75,000 or only own a homestead. You can’t owe any money to creditors.

Summary Administration Process

Summary probate rules and procedures are set forth in Chapter 735 of Florida law. Summary probate can be compared to a small claims case in civil matters. Summary probate does not require the appointment of a personal representative. Summary probate involves preparing and filing a short summary probate petition accompanied by an affidavit that there are no creditors who could file a claim against the decedent or their estate.

In Florida, there are five steps to summary administration:

1. Petition for summary administration.

The personal representative must file a petition with the circuit court in the county where the deceased person lived. The petition must include information about the deceased person’s assets and liabilities, the names and addresses of the heirs and any other interested parties, and a statement that the estate qualifies for summary administration.

A filing fee may also be required.

2. Notify interested parties.

The personal representative must notify all interested parties of the probate proceedings by mailing a notice to their last known address. The notice must include the time and place of the hearing, the name of the personal representative and their address, and the name of the court where the petition was filed.

3. Obtain court approval.

A hearing will be held to review the petition and approve or deny the request for summary administration. The court will review the assets and liabilities of the estate, ensure that all interested parties have been notified, and confirm that the estate qualifies for summary administration.

The court may also approve the appointment of the personal representative and authorize them to take certain actions.

4. Pay debts and distribute assets.

Once the court approves the summary administration, the personal representative will pay any debts and expenses of the estate, such as funeral expenses, outstanding bills and taxes, and any other liabilities.

After that, the remaining assets will be distributed to the heirs.

5. Close the estate.

After all assets have been distributed, the personal representative will file a final accounting with the court. The final accounting must detail all assets, debts, and expenses of the estate, and how the assets were distributed.

The court will review the final accounting. If the court is satisfied with the final accounting, the court will close the estate and the personal representative will be discharged from their responsibilities.

How Long Does Summary Administration Take?

The entire summary administration process in Florida takes only a few months. In contrast, formal administration takes at least 6 months. A summary administration skips most of the formal administration steps, making it a quicker and cheaper alternative to formal administration.

Small Estate Affidavit

In some states, a small estate affidavit is a simple form that allows a person to claim a decedent’s property without going through probate. Florida does not have a small estate affidavit process. Instead, small estates must use Florida summary administration rules.

A brokerage company may request a small estate affidavit when a decedent’s retirement account or life insurance policy did not have any listed beneficiaries.

Cost of Summary Administration in Florida

A summary administration in Florida costs roughly $450 in third-party costs, which includes filing fees and miscellaneous costs. An attorney handling the summary administration will typically charge between $2,000 and $3,000.

Advantages of Florida Summary Administration

Summary administration is a simplified probate process in Florida that is used when the value of a deceased person’s assets is less than a certain amount and there are no disputes among the heirs. The advantages of summary administration in Florida include:

  1. Faster and simpler. Summary administration is generally faster and simpler than regular probate. It has shorter legal deadlines and fewer court appearances required, and as a result, it can be completed in a shorter period of time.
  2. Less costly. Summary administration is less costly than regular probate. The court filing fees are lower, and there is generally less legal work involved, which means lower legal fees.
  3. No bond required. In summary administration, the personal representative is not required to post a bond, which is a deposit of money or property that is intended to protect the estate’s assets. This can save the estate money, and it can also make it easier for the personal representative to qualify for the role.
  4. Limited court supervision. Summary administration is subject to limited court supervision, which means that the court will not closely monitor the personal representative’s actions, providing more autonomy and flexibility to the personal representative in managing the estate.
  5. No requirement for court approval of accountings. In summary administration, the personal representative is not required to file regular accountings with the court and ask for court approval of the accountings, which can save time and money.

Disadvantages of Summary Administration

While summary administration can be a faster and simpler process than regular probate, it also has some disadvantages:

  1. Limited to small estates. Summary administration is only available for estates with assets valued at less than a certain amount, which is currently set at $75,000 in Florida. This means that if the value of the estate exceeds this amount, regular probate will be required.
  2. Limited court oversight. The limited court supervision in summary administration can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. While it provides more autonomy and flexibility to the personal representative, it also means that there is less oversight of the personal representative’s actions, which can lead to potential mismanagement of the estate.
  3. No formal notice to creditors. In summary administration, there is no formal notice to creditors, which means that they may not be aware of the probate proceedings. As a result, they may miss the opportunity to file claims against the estate, which can lead to potential legal issues in the future.
  4. No right to appeal. In summary administration, there is no right to appeal the court’s decision, which means that if you disagree with the court’s decision, your only recourse is to petition for regular probate.
  5. No protection for absent or unknown heirs. In summary administration, there is no requirement to conduct a formal search for absent or unknown heirs, which means that they may not receive their rightful share of the estate.
Gideon Alper

About the Author

I’m an attorney who specializes in asset protection planning. I graduated with honors from Emory University Law School and have been practicing law for almost 15 years.

I have helped thousands of clients protect their assets from creditors. Before private practice, I represented the federal government while working for the IRS Office of Chief Counsel.

Sign up for the latest articles.

Get notified by email when we publish a new article about asset protection law and strategies.