Estates with total assets not exceeding $75,000 may qualify for a special form of probate called summary administration in Florida. Typically, summary administration can be utilized when there is no real estate involved, or where the decedent's primary residence can be qualified as exempted property under the Florida Constitutional Homestead provisions. While this form of probate is much quicker and less involved than formal administration, there are some special rules when it comes to creditor claims of the estate.
If the date of the decedent's death is more than two years from the date a petition for summary administration is filed, then there are generally no concerns regarding creditors of the estate since such claims are barred by Florida statute. However, if the petition is filed prior to the two year anniversary, the petitioner may be liable to the creditors personally to the extent of the available assets in the estate to cover such creditor claims. It is particularly important to identify potential creditor claims in summary administration to eliminate any creditor issues that may catch the petitioner of guard after the completion of summary administration. The liability for such claims can last through the two year anniversary unless proper steps are taken to resolve known creditor claims, and properly notice any potential unknown creditors via legal publication.
While any individual can be responsible for preparing and submitting the petition for summary administration to the Court, generally all persons who stand to inherit from the estate, or have an interest in the estate, must join in and sign the petition for summary administration. In the event a dispute arises among those interest in the estate, formal administration may be the best option to resolve the estate for various procedural reasons.
It is important to be aware that while general creditors may be resolved during probate proceedings, there may be creditors that have a lien on estate property to be transferred. While proper probate proceedings can shield an inheritor from personal liability for such debts, a creditor may still maintain an interest in foreclosing on a personal or real property lien, (mortgage), if the balance is not resolved.