Probate and Trust Administration

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In the State of Florida, court-supervised probate administration may be required if a decedent owned real property, bank accounts, or other assets. The purposes of probate administration include: (1) determination whether the decedent’s Will is valid, if the decedent left a Will, (2) resolution of the decedent’s debts, and (3) identification and distribution of the decedent’s assets.

Probate administration is required if the decedent owned assets solely in the decedent’s name – whether or not the decedent had a Will. If the decedent did not leave a Will, Florida law provides default rules describing how the decedent’s estate will be distributed and who will serve as Personal Representative.

Florida provides two primary approaches to probate administration:

‘Formal’ administration provides for the appointment of a Personal Representative (executor) to conduct the estate. The Personal Representative takes charge of the decedent’s assets, resolves creditor issues, and addresses other issues that arise. Formal administration often requires six months to complete (or more, depending on the circumstances).

‘Summary’ administration often requires only one month to complete. No Personal Representative is appointed; rather, the probate court enters an order distributing the decedent’s assets. Summary administration is available if the value of the decedent’s assets are less than $75,000 or if the decedent died more than two years earlier.

Probate administration is conducted by filing various documents with the probate court. Personal court appearances are not usually required. Because of the cost and hassle involved, many people seek to avoid probate. This is possible with proper estate planning.

Trust administration is similar to probate administration and is required when the decedent left a revocable or irrevocable trust. Trust administration does not require judicial oversight and the costs and time periods involved are generally reduced.