TN 14 (10-14)
GN 02315.046 Florida — Small Estates
A. Background — Florida small estate statute
The Florida Small Estate Statute (Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 735.201 to 735.302 (2014)) provides for listing the following:
Summary administration (§§ 735-.201—735.203, 735.2055, 735.206, and 735.2063)
Disposition without administration (§ 735.301)
B. Policy — Florida summary administration
Summary administration provides a detailed procedure for the settlement of claims and debts of either a resident or nonresident decedent’s estate. Summary administration is available when (i) if the decedent left a will, it does not direct formal administration, and (ii) the value of the entire estate subject to administration in Florida, less the value of property exempt from the claims of creditors, does not exceed $75,000. Summary administration is alternatively available for an estate if the decedent has been dead for more than 2 years and, if decedent left a will, it does not direct formal administration.
1. Petition for summary administration
Any beneficiary or person nominated as personal representative in the decedent’s will may petition for summary administration of the estate. The petition must be signed and verified by the surviving spouse, if any, and any beneficiaries, except that a beneficiary who will receive a full distributive share under the proposed distribution need not join in a petition for summary administration. However, formal notice of the petition must be served on a beneficiary not joining in the petition. Additionally, if the surviving spouse or beneficiary are minors, deceased, incapacitated, or have conveyed or transferred all interest in the property of the estate, their representatives must sign and verify the petition. Florida Probate Rules provide that the petition for administration will include a designation of the person to act as personal representative, Fla. Prob. R. Rule 5.200(c) (2014). Accordingly, a copy of the court order initiating summary administration will provide SSA with a ready source for determining the proper party to receive the underpayment.
2. Payments of debts to the estate under summary administration
Section 735.206 sets out the rules for payment of debts to the estate under summary administration. Part 4(b) of section 735.206, as amended effective January 1, 2002, provides debtors of the decedent holding property of the decedent, and those with whom securities or other property of the decedent are registered, are authorized and empowered to comply with the order of summary administration by paying, delivering, or transferring to those specified in the order that part of the decedent’s estate assigned to them by the order and the persons so paying, delivering, or transferring shall not be accountable to anyone else for the property. A debtor (SSA in this case) complying with this section will not be accountable to anyone else for the property (i.e., will have good acquittance).
C. Policy — Disposition without administration
In disposing of an underpayment without administration, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 735.301 and Rule 5.420 of Florida Probate Rules govern. This method is available only to estates consisting entirely of personal property which is either exempt from creditors’ claims under section 732.402 or the State constitution, or nonexempt personal property the value of which does not exceed the sum of the amount of preferred funeral expenses and reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses of the last 60 days of the last illness.
Section 735.301 amended in 1977, redefining “exempt property” for determining estate size. If there is a question as to whether a “no administration order” is appropriate, submit the case to the Regional Attorney as constitutional interpretation may be required. Section 735.301(2) provides that “upon informal application by affidavit, letter or otherwise by any interested party . . . the court, by letter of other writing under the seal of the court, may authorize the payment, transfer, or disposition of the personal property, tangible or intangible, belonging to the decedent to those persons entitled.” Part (3) states “any person, firm, or corporation paying, delivering, or transferring property under the authorization shall be forever discharged from liability thereon.”
An underpayment is intangible personal property of the decedent, and, as with summary administration, a copy of the Court order would entitle the claimant/distributee to receive the underpayment. Unlike the summary administration situations, however, there may be no express designation of a personal representative and “those persons entitled” mentioned in 735.301(2) must be determined on a case-by-case basis by reference to the Court order.