General Overview of Estate Administration in Florida
Estate Administration in Florida
- Administration process and typical forms
Areas recently updated or posing challenges to administration
- Elective Share
- Creditor Claims
- Personal Representatives
General Estate Administration – fairly straightforward & governed by:
- Florida Probate Code, Chapters 731-735 Florida Statutes
- Florida Probate Rules – set forth specific deadlines and time restraints
- Florida Lawyers Support Services – provides standard forms, which may require modification based on issues specific to a particular estate
Circuit Courts – local rules that apply and must be complied with
- Bond of Personal Representative, or
- Restricted depository account.
Many estates are routine and standard forms and regular procedures can be utilized; however, there are some exceptions:
- Issue of Domicile – proper probate jurisdiction based on legal domicile of decedent
- Will Contests – arise when there are multiple Wills and/or changes to Will shortly before death
Undue Influence – frequently occurs with
- senior adults,
- second spouses,
- Adverse Heirs/Beneficiaries – unable to agree
- Running an active business.
- Selling a business.
- Insolvent business – may involve bankruptcy court.
- Miscellaneous issues that may arise that do not fit neatly into simple administration.
- Florida Constitution grants authority to the Circuit Court to adjudicate rights
- Person must have died
Decedent must have owned property – either real or personal – that cannot be transferred any way other than by administration. Some exceptions include:
- Assets that pass to a joint tenant as survivor by operation of law,
- Assets that designate a beneficiary, such as life insurance, annuities or payable upon death accounts,
- Assets that are held in any trust a decedent may have created prior to death.
Venue – the location where jurisdiction is exercised
- primarily in the County where the decedent was legally domiciled
- Not always easy to determine,
- Often contested by various parties,
- Florida Statute §731.201 equates domicile with usual residence, which is not always easy to determine if a decedent owned multiple residences and frequently divided time between them.
In determining domicile, courts will consider:
- ownership of dwelling, if any
- homestead exemption on real property
- automobile registration
- voter’s registration
- driver’s license
- statement as to domicile in Will or Trust
- bank accounts
- address on federal tax returns.
- may also be in the county where the decedent owned real property
- may be where a debtor of the decedent is located
- occasionally two different states have administered the estate of a decedent as the primary or domiciliary administration, which can create a conflict as to entitlement of the assets
Objection to Venue
- Can be made by the surviving spouse or heir of the decedent,
- Can be made by any interested party to the estate,
- Can be made by the court if a determination is made that the venue was not proper.