Probate is the legal process used to account for property and distribute assets of an estate upon the death of the decedent. Probate can be a lengthy, and often expensive, legal process. In Florida, the probate process can be much simpler and shorter if the decedent's estate qualifies for small estate administration or if the decedent only left exempt personal property to be passed down to his heirs.
Determine that the estate qualifies for probate of a small estate under the Florida Probate Code. A petition for summary administration may be used if the decedent's estate is valued at under $75,000 (as of 2011) or the decedent has been dead for over two years, unless the decedent requested formal administration.
Prepare the petition for summary administration. The petition may be filed by any beneficiary or anyone named as a personal representative in the will. The petition must be signed and verified by the surviving spouse, if any, and by all beneficiaries unless the beneficiary will receive a full distributive share under the proposed distribution. If a beneficiary does not join in the petition, he must still receive a formal notice of the petition.
Admit the will, if one exists, to probate. If the will is self-proving, meaning it was in writing, signed by the decedent and witnessed by two witnesses, then nothing further needs to be done to prove the will. A will may also be proven by the oath of an attesting witness taken before a circuit judge, commissioner or clerk. In the absence of a witness, the personal representative or any person without an interest in the estate may take the oath and admit the will.
Provide notice to creditors. All creditors of the estate must be given notice of the probate by serving a copy of the petition on each one. Arrangements must also be made to pay the creditors if assets are available to do so.
Publish the notice of summary administration. Once the order for summary administration has been entered, a notice to creditors must be published notifying any creditors that were previously unknown of the administration of the estate.
Disposition without administration may also be accomplished when the decedent left only exempt personal property. No formal administration is required. Any interested party may informally apply by letter or affidavit to the court. If the court is satisfied, it will provide a letter authorizing the distribution of the personal property.