When a loved one dies, it can be expensive and time-consuming to probate the will or move the estate through the court system. Because of this, Florida has created two faster procedures that allow heirs to handle a small estate more quickly and simply. This process involves what is usually called a small estate affidavit, but in Florida there are two small estate procedures available: "disposition without administration" and "summary administration."
Qualification for disposition without administration
To qualify for this fast-track procedure, the decedent's estate must not be worth more than $6,000 of nonexempt property and not include any real property.
Exempt property is not included in the total when valuing the estate for this procedure. Exempt property includes furniture, appliances, and household items up to a value of $20,000. Also exempt are two motor vehicles, qualified tuition programs, and some benefits. All assets must be solely owned by the decedent.
The requirements for seeking disposition without administration are as follows:
- The spouse or surviving children can seek disposition of all assets that qualify.
- If there is a spouse or child, then a person who is not a spouse or child can seek disposition only if he or she paid the funeral bill or medical bills of the decedent. This person can only receive the total amount of the funeral costs or medical bills paid.
- If there is no spouse or child, another heir can seek disposition by completing an affidavit of heirship (you can see an example online, but will need to obtain the form from the court you are filing in) and attaching it to the form.
Filing for disposition without administration
To file for disposition of personal property without administration in Florida, you must complete the form, which is different in each county (you can see an example online). Look on the probate court site for the county the decedent lived in or you can go to the court to obtain a copy. Then do the following:
- Attach a certified copy of the death certificate.
- Attach the will if there is one.
- Attach a copy of the funeral contract and paid receipts for the funeral and medical bills showing you paid them if you are seeking reimbursement.
- Attach any documents (bank statements, investment statements, vehicle VIN number, copy of a savings bond, etc.) that show the value of the decedent's assets.
- Attach documentation of who you are (driver's license or other ID).
- Include the filing fee (check with the county where you file for the fee amount).
The form must be filed in the county where the decedent lived. The court reviews the form and the documents and within a few weeks, the court will issue an order granting disposition. The order states to whom the assets now belong and this can be used to obtain the assets from the companies or organizations holding them.
Qualification for summary administration
Summary administration is the other type of procedure in Florida for small estates and is available if:
- The estate contains less than $75,000 of nonexempt assets, or
- More than two years have passed since the date of death.
Either a beneficiary named in the will or the person named as a personal representative in the decedent's will can file for this procedure.
Filing for summary administration
It is recommended that you use an attorney to file for this type of procedure since it is an actual probate procedure that will go before the court. The process begins with filing a petition for summary administration (you can see a sample form online), which you must obtain from the court in the county where the decedent lived.
Both of these procedures provide a faster way to wrap up an estate than full probate proceedings, and are generally less expensive as well. To be sure that you're prepared to handle whatever tasks are required when you or a loved one dies, it is critical to have estate planning documents in place—well before they are needed—whether the estate involved is a small estate or a larger one.
Find out more about Estate Planning Basics