About a month ago, this space discussed the concept of exempt property in the context of Florida estate administration. To refresh, certain property will be considered exempt from creditors when there is a surviving spouse or children of the testator. While this is an important concept during the probate and administration process, it also can make a difference in certain situations where administration of the estate may not be necessary.
Florida Statute Section 735.301 governs these types of situations where the estate is too small to require even summary administration. Basically, any estate that contains only personal property that is exempt from creditors under statute or under the Florida Constitution will not need any type of formal administration. This is also true if the estate contains non-exempt property that is not worth more in value than the cost of funeral expenses and the reasonable medical costs of the decedent's last 60 days of life.
To be able to distribute any property in estates that are exempt from formal administration an informal letter or request may be sent to the court, which may authorize such distribution in writing if it believes the estate qualifies under the statute. Anyone who relies on such authorization in distributing the personal property will not be liable for making such distribution.
While the non-administration route will not be available to many estates in Florida, it may be important to understand when it may be an option, as it can save quite a bit of time and expense for those estates that have very little property. It should be noted, however, that most estates, especially those that include real property, will need proper estate planning to minimize the costs, in both time and money, of estate administration. Those with questions about their estates may want to consider contacting an experienced Florida estate planning attorney.