How Much Does an Estate Have to Be Worth to Go to Probate in FL?

how much does an estate have to be worth to go to probate

Losing someone close to you is always difficult. On top of the immense grief, you also have to deal with tying up legal and financial loose ends of their estate.

Settling debts, distributing assets, and more: can make an emotionally trying time even harder. Unfortunately, Florida’s estate laws don’t offer much mercy. But the probate process isn’t inevitable for every situation. Estate size plays a major role in determining which kind of court administration is required after someone passes away.

In FL, estates worth $75,000 or more, where the decedent died within the last two years, must go through formal probate proceedings, but there’s a lot that goes into this calculation. At Vollrath Law, we’ve guided countless grieving clients through this territory, equipping them to make informed choices amid grief.

In this guide, our probate lawyers will discuss the different types of probate in Florida, what goes into calculating the value of an estate, and strategies to avoid the process altogether.

There are Three Types of Probate in Florida

Before money and property get distributed to the heirs, certain legal formalities have to happen first. This “probate” process involves figuring out the total value of the estate, notifying beneficiaries, paying any outstanding debts, and more.

For large estates or situations where assets and ownership get complicated, probate happens under a Formal Administration. But smaller, more straightforward estates can use a simplified probate process or Summary Administration. Finally, estates where the estate is even smaller and valued at less than the final funeral expenses can be handled with a Disposition Without Administration.

Formal Probate

Florida law says estates valued over $75,000 where the decedent has passed away within two years have to go through Formal Probate.

Formal Probate requires extensive court filings, publishing notices in local publications, collecting assets, paying creditors, filing inventories and accountings, getting final estate approval upon closing, and more. It’s a complicated legal process to navigate. Florida law requires Personal Representatives to be represented by an attorney who can guide the will through the system and stay on top of requirements.

Summary Administration

Estates that are worth less than $75,000 can use Summary Administration. This is a faster, more informal type of probate in Florida.

Here’s how it works – an interested party files a simple petition, along with other documents, and if accepted by the court, a judge signs an order directing who the decedent’s assets are to be paid.

Disposition Without Administration

Disposition Without Administration can be used when the decedent’s estate is valued at less than the decedent’s funeral and medical expenses. Not included in the value of the estate are a few things the law lets you exclude, such as personal furniture or cars.

How is the Value of an Estate Determined?

The value of someone’s probate estate is the total fair market value of all their assets held solely in their name at the time of death. Establishing this “date of death value” is the responsibility of the personal representative.

Determining value typically involves:

  • Listing all individually-owned assets – bank accounts, brokerage investments, cars, property, etc. Life insurance payouts not paid directly to a named beneficiary also count.
  • Using the asset value on the date of death based on appraisals, assessments, market quotes, or other current information.
  • Adding the total value of all identified assets to obtain total estate worth.

This value is used to determine if Florida probate formalities apply or if simplified small estate procedures can be used instead.

What Assets Are Exempt From Probate in Florida?

While many assets get routed through probate court when someone dies, certain types have mechanisms in place specifically preventing that outcome. They transfer instantly and directly to new owners or named beneficiaries outside the court process.

Major Florida assets that bypass probate include:

  • Assets jointly owned with right of survivorship – these automatically become 100% owned by the surviving co-owner, including homes or bank accounts
  • Accounts with payable-on-death or transfer-on-death beneficiaries – life insurance payouts or accounts naming a beneficiary automatically disburse funds
  • Assets placed in revocable living trusts while alive – trusts distribute assets to beneficiaries per terms potentially avoiding court involvement.

The above estate planning tools retain assets’ privileged status, skipping the court process. This helps heirs access inheritance faster and saves money on formal proceedings. Speak with a probate lawyer about setting these arrangements while healthy and able.

How to Avoid Probate of Your Estate

For many people, keeping their assets and property out of formal probate remains a priority in their estate plan. Probate can be long, public, and expensive, delaying inheritance access for heirs.

Luckily, tools exist to exempt certain assets from court-involved probate – if you prepare in advance. Common probate-avoidance strategies include:

Create a Revocable Living Trust

One way to avoid probate is placing assets into a personalized revocable living trust while still alive. You retain full control as the grantor or trustee. Upon death, the trust dictates the distribution of contents to your named beneficiaries privately and efficiently. Many assets can be transferred this way.

Name Payable-on-Death Beneficiaries

Accounts like bank accounts, retirement funds, and investment portfolios let you assign transfer-on-death beneficiaries. They receive immediate distribution after death while skipping probate delays. Ensure to name contingent beneficiaries as well.

Hold Property Jointly

Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship on assets offers another path to avoid probate. It instantly transfers ownership percentage to the surviving co-owner upon death. Homes and financial accounts qualify for this dual possession.

Smart estate planning and asset titling arrangements prevent courts from gaining control over hard-earned life savings and properties after you pass away. Speak to attorneys about enacting a personalized probate avoidance strategy today.

Safeguard Your Assets – Vollrath Law Provides Probate Counsel

While we highlighted key thresholds dictating probate engagements for Florida estates, everyone’s financial picture and family dynamic differ.

Seeking personalized counsel ensures not only that your estate avoids unnecessary probate exposure but also that it efficiently transfers estates according to your family’s unique wishes.

At Vollrath Law, our compassionate estate planning attorneys have guided families just like yours through the estate planning and probate process. Call today so we can help determine the most effective strategies for your legacy situation as well.

Author Bio

Stephanie Vollrath is an Owner and Partner of Vollrath Law, a Florida estate planning law firm she founded in 2013. With more than seven years of experience in investments and financial advising and 13 years practicing law in Florida, she represented clients in a wide range of estate planning cases. Her practice areas include wills, trusts, guardianship, probate, and other estate planning matters.

Stephanie received her Juris Doctor from the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law and is a member of the Florida Bar and the Seminole County Bar Association.

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