Nonlawyer Options for Florida Summary Administration
So, you’re looking for forms for Summary Administration in Florida. If you’ve been calling and surfing around, you’ve probably already learned that….
1. You need to file a “Summary Administration” to sort out a departed loved one’s affairs, and you’ve been trying to find the right probate or homestead forms to use and an affordable and stress-free way of filling them out and filing them with the court;
2. Florida probate attorneys charge a lot of money just to have their paralegals type up a Petition for Summary Administration, which is supposed to be an abbreviated and affordable form of probate;
3. Accomplishing your goal requires more than just, “one form”, and the more you read, the more complicated and intimidating the process seems. You may have even had an attorney tell you that you can’t file a Summary Administration by yourself; and
4. There are “Internet Form Banks” and “Online Form-Filler” type websites that promise simple and cheap solutions to solve all of your summary administration problems, but something doesn’t seem quite right, because the thought of working with a distant computer instead of a real person doesn’t seem like a good idea. Good choice.
Our Company is Florida Document Specialists, and this is what we can offer you:
We are a family owned and operated business in Central Florida that is A+ rated, 5-Star reviewed, and accredited by the Central Florida Better Business Bureau. We serve all of Florida by offering non-lawyer preparation of document packages for Florida Summary Administration. We assist our out-of-area or out-of-state customers by conducting business by email and USPS Priority Mail. We also assist families across the United States prepare an ancillary summary administration for their loved ones who own property in Florida.
We are different from everyone else, because we don’t sell probate forms, and our processes aren’t automated. That means you will work with a real person who you can talk to or email with whenever you want. We provide a complete, flat-fee solution to help you accomplish your goal of getting an Order of Summary Administration signed by a judge as quickly as possible.
Our services include:
- Preparation of your Petition for Summary Administration and the other probate forms that the court requires;
- Preparation of your proposed orders for the judge’s signature. This includes the Order of Summary Administration, Order Admitting Will to Probate, and the Order for Determination of Homestead Property;
- Preparation of documents for an Ancillary Florida Summary Administration for our out-of-state customers whose family members owned property in Florida;
- Filing your case for you with the circuit court, and and monitoring the court docket weekly for updates;
- Any additional forms or corrections requested by the court. There is never an additional charge for this. We’re with you until your case is complete;
- Transmittal of documents between you and our company, and our company and the court. This is accomplished using USPS Priority Mail with Tracking, and electronic filing through the Florida Court’s E-Portal online filing system;
- Working closely with a nonlawyer document specialist who will type all of your summary administration probate documents, proposed court orders, and correspondence with the court, using the factual information that you provide in writing using our online questionnaire; and
- Complete accessibility to our staff by telephone or email until your process has concluded.
How much does it cost?
We charge a flat fee of $495 for our services. We also cover the cost of postage required to complete and file your case. This price does not include filing fees charged by the court.
Are there court filing fees?
Yes. To file a Florida summary administration of probate for an estate valued at $1000 or more, the average filing fee in Florida is $345. Ancillary proceedings may cost $400. Although we file and monitor your case for you, the court filing fee is not included in our flat fee.
We’d be happy to speak with you.
Whether or not you choose to hire Florida Document Specialists to assist you with the preparation of your Petition for Summary Administration, we have assembled some frequently asked questions that may help you with your research. Contact us at anytime by phone or by using the contact form at the bottom of this page. Remember, we are not attorneys, so we cannot give you legal advice.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
What is a Florida Summary Administration?
Probate is a process supervised by the circuit court that identifies a decedent’s debts and distributes the decedent’s assets to the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate.
Florida Summary Administration is a shortened form of probate that requires less time and effort than formal administration. Unlike formal administration, the court will not appoint a personal representative of the estate.
Can I File a Summary Administration in Florida Without Hiring an Attorney?
Yes. Despite the misinformation scattered across the Internet, Florida courts will accept a Petition for Summary Administration from a pro se (self-represented) party without requiring a lawyer to be involved. Florida judges sign numerous orders for summary administration each year prepared and filed by pro se parties who did not hire a probate attorney.
What if I Don’t File the Correct Forms and Proposed Orders?
The probate clerk in the circuit court usually relies on a summary administration checklist. If you intend to prepare and file a summary administration on your own, your primary focus should be to follow the Florida statutes and satisfy the court’s local requirements. It’s always a good idea to read the clerk of court’s website in order to find out if their probate judges have any local procedures or administrative orders that you need to be concerned about.
The court will compare your Petition for Summary Administration filing against their intake checklist. If something is wrong with your probate paperwork, it is possible that it could be rejected and returned to you without further explanation. Probate clerks are not permitted to tell you what you are missing or how to correct your mistakes. In some instances a kind clerk or pro se coordinator may reach out to you and offer some assistance. Your mileage may vary.
Is the Estate Eligible for Summary Administration?
Before you file a Florida Petition for Summary Administration, you need to determine if the estate of the decedent is eligible. To qualify for a Florida summary administration:
- The value of the entire estate subject to administration in Florida, less the value of property exempt from the claims of creditors, must not exceed $75,000; or
- The decedent has been dead for two or more years prior to the filing of the petition for summary administration; and
- If the decedent left a Last Will and Testament, it does not direct administration as required by chapter 733 of the Florida statutes. If the decedent’s will directs a formal administration of probate, the option of filing a summary administration without an attorney is no longer an option.
Where Do I Start?
To begin a Florida summary administration, the petitioner obtains the correct Florida summary administration forms and files a Petition for Summary Administration with the circuit court. This is typically filed in the county where the decedent resided at the time of his/her death. If the decedent did not live in Florida, the petition is usually filed in the county where the decedent owns real property. The Petition for Summary Administration may be filed by any beneficiary or by a person nominated as a personal representative by the decedent in their will, but it must be verified and signed by the surviving spouse, if any.
I have the decedent’s original will, what should I do with it?
Florida Statute 732.901 directs that the custodian of a last will and testament must deposit the will with the clerk of court having venue of the estate of the decedent within 10 days after receiving information that the testator is dead.
When you deposit the will with the clerk, make sure you have a made a photocopy first for personal reference. Take a copy of the decedent’s death certificate with you to the clerk’s office for reference. The clerk will give you a receipt for the deposit of the will and a corresponding file number. It’s important that you keep the file number in a safe place as you will need it when you’re preparing your Petition for Summary Administration. There is no cost for depositing a will with the clerk.
How Do I Know What to Put In the Probate Forms?
Florida statutes specify what information must be included in the Petition for Summary Administration. These include facts showing why the estate qualifies for summary administration, and information about the estate’s assets along with a proposed plan to distribute them. Summary Administration in Florida is governed by Chapter 731 of the Florida Statutes. It is commonly referred to as the Florida Probate Code.
What is The End Result, and How Long Does it Take?
Once the judge reviews the petition(s) and is satisfied that the estate qualifies, and the requirements of the law are met, the court will issue an order(s) distributing the assets or determining the status of homestead property. Processing time in the courts is unpredictable and depends on things such as the size of the county, the workload and efficiency of the court, and even the time of year (vacations, holidays, etc.). We have seen pro se parties receive signed orders in as little as a week after filing or as long as 7 months.
Are There any Potential Pitfalls?
Yes. Just because an estate qualifies for a summary administration, it is not necessarily your best course of action. There may be some circumstances in your particular matter that you did not anticipate. For instance, in a Florida summary administration there is a “petitioner”, but no “personal representative”. A petitioner does not have the same legal authority to inquire about, collect, manage, or dispose of assets in the same way that a court appointed personal representative does in a formal administration.
You may think that the estate is valued at $75,000 or less, but there may be bank accounts, stock accounts, life insurance policies, annuities, or other assets that you aren’t even aware of. You will not have the authority to inquire about the existence of additional assets, and banks and other institutions have no responsibility to disclose them to you.
Probate can be a complex area of law. That is why there are attorneys in Florida that specialize in probate. Probate matters often require a Florida probate attorney, not a document preparation service.
There are other factors that may come into play too, such as IRS issues, beneficiaries who are minors, lawsuits, homestead exemption complications, and foreclosure proceedings, to name a few. That’s why it’s always a good idea to consult with a Florida probate attorney to answer your legal questions and provide legal advice so that you can feel confident that you are making the right decisions.
Other Florida Summary Administration Forms that a pro se Filer May Need:
Petition for Summary Administration – Testate;
Petition for Summary Administration – Intestate;
Petition to Determine Homestead Status of Real Property;
Proposed Order Determining Homestead Status of Real Property;
Joinder, Waiver, and Consent Forms;
Proposed Order Admitting Will to Probate;
Oath of Witness;
Affidavit of Heirs;
Notice to Creditors;
Affidavit Concerning Criminal History; and
Miscellaneous Forms Required by Local Courts
If You Want to Do It on Your Own
If you decide to file a Florida summary administration case on your own, and you don’t require legal advice or representation, Florida Document Specialists can provide you with affordable options in the form of clerical and procedural assistance. If you’re ready to get started, you can complete our online summary administration questionnaire. The questionnaire provides us with the factual information that is needed to prepare your Petition for Florida Summary Administration.