Navigating Summary Administration in Florida: A Detailed Look at this Shortened Type of Probate and the Use of Nonlawyer Document Preparation Services

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


When dealing with estate matters in Florida, the probate process can be daunting. However, there’s a quicker, less complex path: Summary Administration – a streamlined form of probate available under specific circumstances. This post will provide an in-depth exploration of Summary Administration, its advantages, requirements, the role of nonlawyer document preparation services like Florida Document Specialists, and the typical process including the depositing of wills and filing a petition for Summary Administration.

Understanding the Appeal of Summary Administration

Summary Administration offers multiple benefits that make it an attractive alternative to many.

Quick Turnaround: The speed of Summary Administration is a significant advantage. Regular probate can take anywhere from several months to years, especially with complex estates. Summary Administration, in contrast, often concludes within weeks or a few months, allowing for faster distribution of the estate’s assets.

Reduced Expenses: Summary Administration is usually less costly than full probate. Given its simplicity and quick resolution, the associated expenses are often considerably reduced, which can ease the financial burden during an already challenging time.

Eligibility for Summary Administration

To use Summary Administration, certain requirements need to be met.

Firstly, the deceased person (the decedent) must have been dead for more than two years, or the estate’s total value subject to probate (excluding the decedent’s protected homestead property) must not exceed $75,000.

The Crucial Role of Nonlawyer Document Preparation Services

Engaging services like Florida Document Specialists can provide significant assistance when navigating probate. While these specialists do not provide legal advice, they offer support in preparing the necessary legal documents required for processes like Summary Administration.

Precision in Document Preparation: Precisely prepared documents are fundamental for a smooth probate process. Professional document preparation services bring to bear their experience and expertise to accurately complete legal forms, significantly reducing the chance of errors that could delay the process.

Affordability: Probate can be costly, especially if you engage an attorney. Nonlawyer document preparation services present a more affordable solution, helping you navigate paperwork at a fraction of the cost of traditional legal services, which can provide significant financial savings.

Convenience: Many document preparation services offer online support, allowing you to receive necessary assistance from the comfort of your home.

The Summary Administration Process: From Depositing Wills to Filing a Petition

Let’s outline a typical Summary Administration process in Florida, beginning with the depositing of any wills:

  1. Deposit the Will: If a will exists, it should be deposited with the clerk of the circuit court in the county where the decedent lived, typically within 10 days of learning about the decedent’s death.
  2. File a Petition: After depositing the will, you or your representative should file a Petition for Summary Administration with the court. This petition includes important information, such as the decedent’s details, a description of the assets, their estimated value, and the names and addresses of the beneficiaries.
  3. Court Review: The court will then review the petition. If the court is satisfied that the estate qualifies for Summary Administration, it issues an order releasing the decedent’s property to the beneficiaries.
  4. Distribution of Assets: Following the court’s order, the assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries.

It’s important to note that Summary Administration doesn’t appoint a personal representative for the estate. Therefore, if disputes arise or if the estate has debts, this method may not be the best choice.


To sum up, Summary Administration can provide an efficient pathway to navigate the probate process in Florida when conditions are right. Leveraging a nonlawyer document preparation service can further expedite the process, reduce costs, and simplify the complex world of probate, offering a measure of ease during a difficult period.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • What exactly is Florida summary administration, and does it involve probate?

    Yes, probate is a legal process that is overseen by the circuit court and aims to identify the debts of a deceased person while distributing their assets to either creditors or beneficiaries of their estate.

    Florida Summary Administration, on the other hand, is a simplified version of probate that requires less time and effort than formal administration. Unlike formal administration, no personal representative (PR) is appointed by the court in summary administration.

  • What are the differences between a formal administration and a summary administration of probate in Florida?

    In a formal administration, a Personal Representative (PR) is appointed by the court to handle the estate administration, whereas in a summary administration, no PR is appointed. This means that in a summary administration, the distribution of the estate can be quicker and less expensive than in a formal administration.

    Another significant difference between the two types of administration is the level of detail required for the petition. In a summary administration, you must identify the assets of the decedent with certainty and list them in your petition with specificity. In contrast, in a formal administration, the PR is required to provide a detailed inventory of the estate assets and is required to provide a final accounting.

    It's important to note that Florida law requires the hiring of a licensed attorney to initiate a formal administration, whereas in a summary administration, you have the option to use a non-lawyer service. This means that if you choose a summary administration, you can save on the high costs associated with hiring an attorney.

    Overall, if the estate in question is relatively simple, has few assets, and no outstanding debts, a summary administration may be a good option. However, if the estate is complex or there are disputes among beneficiaries or creditors, a formal administration may be necessary to ensure that the estate is properly administered and distributed.

  • Is it possible to file for a summary administration in Florida without hiring an attorney?

    Absolutely. Contrary to what you may have heard, a pro se (self-represented) party can file a petition for summary administration in Florida without the involvement of an attorney, provided that they have the legal standing to file the petition. This means that if you meet the criteria for filing a summary administration, you can choose to handle the process on your own or seek assistance from a non-lawyer service.

  • I read online that an attorney is necessary to file a petition for summary administration, except when the personal representative is the only interested party. Is this accurate?

    No, this statement is incorrect. In a summary administration, there is no Personal Representative appointed by the judge. It is only in a formal administration of probate that a Personal Representative is appointed by the court, and "letters of administration" are issued to them to act on behalf of the estate with the court's authority. Therefore, hiring an attorney is not mandatory for filing a petition for summary administration in Florida, regardless of the number of interested parties.

  • What happens to the assets of an estate if the decedent died without a last will (intestate) in Florida?

    If a Florida resident dies without a valid will or living trust, their assets will be divided according to the intestate succession laws of the state. These laws determine how the assets will be distributed among the surviving family members, such as the spouse, children, parents, or siblings, depending on the decedent's surviving family structure.

    If you need assistance in determining how the assets of the estate will be divided, an online Florida Intestacy Evaluator is available to help. This resource can be a useful tool in understanding the legal process and identifying the beneficiaries who are entitled to receive the decedent's assets.

  • If I have checks that are written to "The Estate of..." and want to cash them, is it possible to do so with a summary administration?

    Probably not. If you have checks that are made out to an estate, you will need to contact the bank, insurance company, or other holder of the assets and inquire about the possibility of canceling the checks and waiting for an order of summary administration from the judge. Once the holder of the assets receives the court order, they will have the authority to reissue the checks to you instead of the estate.

    However, if canceling the checks is not possible, the only way to cash them would be to open an estate bank account. To do so, a formal administration that involves hiring an attorney is necessary.

  • Is it a problem if I don't have complete information about the decedent's assets, such as their account numbers?

    It could be a significant issue, and we encounter this situation frequently. Sometimes, you may be aware that the decedent held bank accounts, stock accounts, and other assets, but you don't have all the information, such as the account numbers or the balances of the accounts.

    In a summary administration, it is crucial to describe the probate assets with specificity, and letters of administration are not issued since there is no Personal Representative involved. As a result, a pro se petitioner in a summary administration does not have the authority to demand additional information from the institutions holding the assets, and these institutions will not provide it if you ask.

    If you have the complete account numbers or at least the last four digits and an accurate or approximate estimate of the value of the accounts, you may be in good shape. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, you may be able to locate all of the required information by examining the decedent's papers and old mail.

    If you lack any information, a summary administration may not be an appropriate option for you. This situation usually only applies to assets such as bank accounts, stock accounts, insurance policies, retirement accounts, and so on. Information on real property, such as homestead or real estate, is easily accessible online through the clerk of court.

  • What if I don’t file the correct summary administration forms and proposed orders?

    If you plan to handle the preparation and filing of a summary administration on your own, it is essential to focus on satisfying the requirements outlined in the Florida statutes and your local court's guidelines. It is a good idea to visit the websites associated with the clerk of court and the judicial circuit in which you plan to file to learn about any local procedures or administrative orders that you should be aware of.

    Probate clerks usually rely on a summary administration checklist, and these checklists are often available online for download. The court will compare your petition for summary administration and other associated Florida probate forms against their intake checklist. If there are any mistakes or omissions in your paperwork, it is possible that it may be rejected and returned to you without explanation.

    Generally, probate clerks are not authorized to provide guidance on correcting your errors or identifying missing information. However, in some cases, a kind clerk or pro se coordinator may offer some assistance. If this occurs, it is important to be polite and gracious because it is the exception rather than the rule.

  • What are the eligibility criteria for a summary administration in Florida?

    It is important to determine if the decedent's estate is eligible before filing a Florida Petition for Summary Administration. 

    To qualify for a Florida summary administration, the following criteria must be met:

    • The total value of the estate subject to administration in Florida, excluding any exempt property, should not exceed $75,000, or
    • The decedent must have been deceased for at least two years before the petition for summary administration is filed.
    • If the decedent left a Last Will and Testament, it should 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 available.
  • Can a ten-million-dollar estate be probated through a summary administration without a lawyer if the decedent has been deceased for over two years?

    Yes, technically, it is possible to probate a ten-million-dollar estate through a summary administration without a lawyer if the decedent has been deceased for over two years. However, whether this is the best course of action for you is a decision you must make based on your specific circumstances and needs.

  • What is the first step to initiate a Florida summary administration?

    To begin a Florida summary administration, the petitioner should first obtain the appropriate Florida summary administration forms and file a petition for summary administration with the circuit court that has jurisdiction over the estate. Generally, the summary administration is filed in the county where the decedent resided at the time of their death. However, if the decedent did not reside in Florida, the petition is usually filed in the county where the decedent owned real property. Any beneficiary or person nominated as a personal representative in the decedent's will can file the petition for summary administration, but it must be verified and signed by the surviving spouse, if any.

    If you decide to hire Florida Document Specialists to assist with the summary administration, you can fill out the questionnaire in the "Let's Get Started" section at the top of the page.

  • What should I do if I have the original will of the decedent?

    Florida Statute 732.901 requires the custodian of a last will and testament to deposit the will with the clerk of court having jurisdiction over the estate within 10 days after receiving information that the testator has passed away.

    Before depositing the will with the clerk, it is essential to make a photocopy or scan of it for your records. It would be best to carry a copy of the decedent's death certificate to the clerk's office, as they may require it. The clerk will provide you with a receipt for the deposited will and a corresponding file number. It is crucial to keep the receipt and file number in a secure place as you will need them when preparing your petition for summary administration. Depositing a will with the clerk is free of charge. Please note that a will cannot be deposited or filed with the probate clerk until the testator has passed away.

  • Where can I learn to prepare summary administration forms?

    To learn how to prepare summary administration forms in Florida, you can refer to the guidelines set forth in Chapter 731 of the Florida Statutes. These guidelines outline the information that must be included in a petition for summary administration and a petition to determine the status of homestead property, such as facts demonstrating that the estate is eligible for summary administration and details about the estate’s assets and proposed distribution plan.

    Additionally, there are resources available online such as the clerk of court’s website and other legal websites that offer information and templates for preparing these forms.

    However, keep in mind that these resources are not a substitute for legal advice, and it’s always a good idea to seek the assistance of a qualified probate attorney or document preparation service to ensure that your forms are completed accurately and in compliance with the law.

  • What is the outcome, and how long does the process take?

    After the judge reviews the petition(s) and confirms that the estate qualifies and meets the requirements of the law, the court will issue orders that distribute the assets or determine the status of homestead property. The processing time in the courts is unpredictable and varies depending on factors such as the county's size, the court's workload and efficiency, 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, while others may take up to 7 months. The procedures used by Florida courts for submitting proposed orders to a probate judge vary widely.

  • Are there any potential pitfalls with a summary administration?

    Yes.  Just because an estate qualifies for a summary administration, it may not necessarily your best course of action.  There may be 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 and 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.

  • Do I need to produce funeral or medical bills?

    In many cases, especially when the decedent has passed away within two years, the court may require evidence that the funeral and other end-of-life expenses have been paid. Some courts may also require proof of payment for the last six months of medical expenses.

  • What are the most common probate forms needed for a Florida summary administration?

    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
    Proposed Order Admitting Will to Probate
    Oath of Witness
    Affidavit of Heirs
    Notice to Creditors
    Formal Notice
    Affidavit Concerning Criminal History 
    Miscellaneous Forms Required by Local Courts