Formal vs. Summary Administration: Florida Probate Explained

Formal administration and summary administration are two forms of probate used when a deceased person’s assets do not have a “payable on death” provision, joint owner, or beneficiary designation.

Summary administration is only available when the total value of the assets subject to probate is less than $75,000 or if the decedent has died more than two years before the filing.  It can also be used when the only asset is a Florida homestead.  Formal administration is used for all other estates or if a personal representative, or executor, is necessary.

Considerations for Choosing Summary vs. Formal Probate

Summary probate has a shorter time frame than formal administration — an average of 3-6 months vs. 6-18 months — and typically costs less. It’s also less complicated, and the probate court doesn’t require as much documentation as a formal administration.

However, with a summary administration, a personal representative is not appointed by the court.  Often times, a life insurance company or retirement plan will require a personal representative even when the assets are below $75,000.

Formal probate, also known a full administration is a lengthier process and requires more documentation than summary administration.

In formal administration, the court will appoint the personal representative who is granted the authority to gather information about any debts or assets belonging to the deceased.

The personal representative is issued Letters of Administration, which gives them access to banking and other financial information. They may also deal with creditors on behalf of the estate and negotiate any claims they deem invalid or questionable.

Formal administration takes longer than summary, costs more, and requires more steps to settle the estate.

Which Method Is Better?

Determining the correct course of access to settle the estate depends on the total value of the deceased’s assets, any debts, and whether there is pending litigation against the estate’s assets.

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