By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
November 28, 2017
Types of Estate Administration (Probate): Formal v. Summary Administration
There are two main types of estate administrations, which are commonly referred to as probate. They are very similar and also very different. Fortunately, you do not have to choose one because the laws chooses for you. Let’s take a closer look at the two main types of estate administrations in Florida: formal administration and summary administration.
What’s the Difference between Formal vs. Summary Administration?
When in doubt, formal administration should be used to distribute an estate. This process is typically best suited for when creditors or litigation is involved.
However, formal administration may more than 12 months and has costs that can be avoided if the estate goes through summary administration or no estate administration.
Summary administration may be conducted if:
- The decedent’s probate assets are valued at less than $75,000 total
- The decedent has been dead for over two years (statute of repose not statute of limitations)
What Is the Process of Summary Administration?
If the decedent’s estate qualifies for summary administration, the estate will go through a shorter probate process than formal administration. The process will include:
- Filing the proper paperwork, including the market value of assets and the plan for distributing the assets
- Notifying creditors
- Determination of the homestead status
- Transferring real estate to appropriate heirs
- Distribution of funds to creditors and beneficiaries
The entire process should take no more than 3-5 months, and costs less than a formal administration.
In general, the summary administration process is shorter, less expensive, and less complicated.
What Is the Process of Formal Administration?
Formal administration is an expanded version of summary administration. In this process, a personal representative is appointed and holds the responsibility of moving the estate through the lengthy process.
This process includes:
- Filing the proper paperwork to open up an estate (a separate new legal entity)
- Notifying creditors by publication and actual service
- Filing the inventory of assets
- Determination of the homestead property and household effects
- Preparing and serving an accounting to all interested persons
- Distributing assets to creditors and beneficiaries
- Closing the estate
The estate cannot be officially closed until all litigation is completed, and this process definitely takes longer. Even if the will is not contested, the process can take up to a year to complete. More time, more creditors, and more assets generally make formal administration a more expensive process as well. Typically, we believe that probate should be avoided if possible.
Of the two types of administrations, financial institutions, however, are more comfortable with this process, since letters of administration are created and a personal representative is appointed.
Both formal and summary administration processes have pros and cons, and either may make more sense depending on the nature of the estate involved. You don’t usually have the luxury to choose though, so before you begin the process, contact a Florida probate attorney.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
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