Florida’s probate shortcuts: how to know if you qualify

4 min read

Florida’s probate threshold for simplified probate

  • Summary administration is a path to probate that typically takes one to two months.

  • Disposition without administration, on the other hand, can take mere weeks.

  • Both are completed with less court supervision than full probate, which in Florida is called formal administration.

  • An estate can pursue summary administration if it is valued under $75,000, and either has no debt or is starting probate at least two years since your loved one’s death.

  • To qualify for disposition without administration, your loved one’s personal property must be worth less than final expenses such as medical bills and funeral expenses.

In Florida, the most common type of probate is called formal administration. This is also known as "full probate," meaning that every step of the process is court-supervised—and it will take a minimum of six months, though 18 months or more is common.

There are a couple of faster, and therefore cheaper, way to resolve your loved one’s financial life, though.

For estates with few assets, you may be able to file for what is known as disposition without administration. To qualify, the reasonable value of your loved one’s personal property must not exceed final expenses such as medical bills and funeral expenses. In addition, all property must be exempt from other creditors’ claims.

With a single filing, your loved one’s assets can be released directly to the person who paid those bills—usually within weeks.

A more common form of simplified probate, though, is called summary administration. The streamlined process generally takes one to two months, because it requires less court supervision.

To qualify for summary administration, the estate must hold no debt (or two years must have passed since your loved one died). In addition, the value of your loved one’s estate must be below what’s known as the probate threshold. In Florida, the threshold is $75,000.

Take a closer look to see which form of simplified probate in Florida is right for you.

Disposition without administration

If you have recently paid for either the medical or funeral expenses of a loved one who passed away with few assets in the state of Florida, you may be eligible to file for a form of probate called disposition without administration.

In addition, you do not need to hire a lawyer, as you are required to do for other types of probate in Florida. The process typically takes a few weeks.

Assets that are exempt

In determining the value of your loved one‘s personal property, some things are not included in the calculation. Under Florida law, these are exempt assets:

  • The homestead, or the home where your loved one lived.

  • Household furnishings and appliances up to $20,000 in value.

  • Up to two vehicles that were registered in your loved one’s name and used regularly. 

  • Tuition programs, such as the Florida Prepaid College Trust Fund, that are qualified under IRS Code Section 529.

  • Revocable trusts with a named beneficiary—the assets transfer directly to them without going through probate.

  • Payable-on-death (POD) and transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts or property with named beneficiaries.

  • Property designated as joint title with rights of survivorship, in which two people have equal right to a property, and if one person passes away the other person named on the title has full ownership.

  • Property designated as tenancy by entirety, which is similar to joint tenancy, but only applies to married couples in Florida.

Homes or real estate are not exempt. If your loved one’s estate contains any real property, then you will have to pursue one of the other types of probate: summary administration or formal administration.

How to apply for disposition without administration

File a form called Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration with your loved one’s local county court, and the court will determine if you are eligible to pursue this type of probate.

  • Your loved one’s will

  • A copy of the death certificate

  • Copies of all funeral and medical expenses and funeral bills that you paid

  • A document listing all of your loved one’s assets

Depending on the requirements of your county’s court, you may also need to present a signed consent form from other heirs, and a statement that the decedent was not married and had no children.

After the judge reviews all the documents, they will issue another document authorizing you to start the process of distributing assets to beneficiaries.

Summary administration

Summary administration is designed for estates with more assets—including real estate—as well as debt. However, the estate value must be below the threshold of $75,000.

To determine an estate’s value in Florida, you must appraise the assets and subtract the debts owed. It is important to remember, however, that non-probate assets do not factor into this calculation at all.

Your loved one’s total assets may be well over $75,000, but if a lot of those assets are non-probate assets (see the list above in the "Assets that are exempt" section), the estate can still be under the probate threshold and qualify for summary administration.

Using an appraiser to assess the value of the estate’s assets is always a good idea, particularly if there is any doubt about whether the estate is under the probate threshold.

How to begin summary administration in Florida

To initiate summary probate, a Petition for Summary Administration must be filed with the Circuit Court in the county where your loved one lived.

Next, the surviving spouse and any other beneficiaries will sign and verify the petition, along with all other beneficiaries. Those who do not sign it must be served a notice that the petition has been filed.

The petition must include a complete list of the assets of the person who has passed away, the value of those assets, who will inherit them, as well as an explanation why the estate qualifies for summary probate based on the circumstances.

As with almost all probate cases in Florida, you will need to hire a lawyer. But a personal representative from the family does not have to be legally designated to guide the estate through probate, as is done during formal administration. (In other states, this role is known as the executor.)

Unlike other types of probate, the court doesn’t decide on a personal representative for the estate. Skipping that, the court goes directly to the question of whether the estate qualifies for summary administration.

If it does, the court releases the property to the beneficiaries who inherit it by issuing an order that can be shown to a bank that you have now officially inherited the assets.

As much as one may want to avoid probate, formal administration may be unavoidable. In fact, it is the most common type of probate used in Florida. However, the state’s expedited path is an attractive option at a time when grief itself can be incredibly time-consuming—so settling your loved one’s affairs quickly is a choice you won’t regret.

You may be eligible for free bereavement support. Empathy can help with everything from funeral planning to estate administration, with step-by-step guidance and real-time expert support. Many people get free premium access to Empathy as a benefit with their life insurance claim. We partner with New York Life, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bestow, Lemonade, and other leading carriers. When you make your life insurance claim, talk to your representative about whether Empathy is a benefit they offer.