How to Probate a Small Estate in Florida
Small Estate Limits for Florida
In Florida, there's no Affidavit procedure available for small estates. There is a summary probate procedure available for estates that have no real estate and in which all property is exempt from creditor's claims, except the amounts needed to pay funeral and the last two months of illness expenses.
Fla. Stat. Ann 735.201
There's another summary probate procedure available for estates that don't exceed $75,000 or in which the decedent has been dead for mor than two years. (This excludes the value of all joint tenancy property and other assets that pass by beneficiary designation, such as life insurance and transfer on death accounts.)
Fla. Stat. Ann 735.201 and following.
What's Included in valuing the estate?
Not everything a person owns is part of their "Estate" for probate purposes.
If you're wrapping up the estate of a Florida resident who died with an estate that's worth less than a certain dollar amount, you won't have to go through a formal probate court proceeding.
It doesn't matter whether or not the deceased person left a will; what matters is the value of the assets left behind. If the estate's value is under the "small estates" limit in Florida, you can take advantage of a simplified probate procedure, often called a "summary probate." Instead of having a court hearing in front of a judge, you may need only to file a simple form or two and wait for a certain amount of time before distributing the assets.
In some states, it can be even easier: Inheritors can use a simple affidavit to claim assets. (An affidavit is a statement you sign in front of a notary, swearing something is true.) If you live in one of those states, you just have to wait a required period of time, then sign a simple, sworn statement that no probate proceeding is happening in your state and that you are the person entitled to inherit a particular asset--a bank account, for example.
Adding it up, what's in, what's not
When you are trying to determine whether or not an estate's value is below the Florida small estates limit, the first thing to do is make a list of the assets. A simple spreadsheet or list will do.
Not everything a person owns counts, though.
Include only the things that pass to heirs and beneficiaries by will or, if there's no will, by Florida intestacy laws, which determine who inherits if there is no will.