What is a small estate affidavit, and what do I need to know?
As a reminder, the information provided on this blog article is only to be used for general informational purposes and not intended to be used as legal advice.
A small estate affidavit is simply a legal document (which name varies by state) authorizing one to claim assets after their loved one has passed, which would be in lieu of a lengthy probate process. Now, you may be asking why one may need to go through the probate process if a document like this exists. The answer is simple and it’s because if the descendant’s estate exceeds a certain value (value which is set by your state) the small estate affidavit is no longer valid which means a probate process would have to take place.
Before asking yourself how to get started, you first need to find out if you’re even eligible to begin the process. If you live in the state of Florida it means you have a couple of options, not necessarily a small estate affidavit, but rather two processes known as a Disposition Without Administration, and a Summary Administration.
A Disposition Without Administration was designed to be a swift, and inexpensive process that could be completed without the assistance of an attorney. The requirements for this process are rather strict, but to qualify you must have either paid for the descendant’s final funeral or medical expenses, the estate must not be greater than final expenses, nor can the estate contain any real property. If there is any real property involved either a summary administration, or a formal administration would have to take place.
A Summary Administration is an alternative route for those managing estates under $75,000, or when it has been more than 2 years of the descendant’s passing. This is a form of probate that is done by petitioning the Court to release the descendant’s assets to those entitled by law. In addition, one must tell the Court that all debt has been paid off, otherwise you may find yourself liable to claims and debt against the dependent’s estate, but of course the liability would not be greater than the amount initially distributed to you.
I qualify for a Disposition Without Administration, but what do I do next?
The type of form you’ll need to fill out will depend on the county you’ll be petitioning to the Court in, which can be found online at the county’s court website. Upon filling out the form, you’ll need to attach the following documents:
- A certified copy of the death certificate.
- A will (if available).
- A copy of the funeral contract and any receipts of the funeral or medical expenses showing you paid for them and are seeking to be reimbursed.
- Copies of documents that are able to show the value of the decedent’s assets. Documents include the following, but are not limited to: bank and investment statements, VIN numbers, etc.
- Your proof of identity (Driver’s License, Passport or other forms of identification).
- Filing Fee (Check with the County for the exact amount to pay).
Remember, the Disposition Without Administration must be filed where the descendant lived and once submitted, the process can take up to a few short weeks to be finalized and for the estate to be distributed to you.
Filing for Summary Administration, what should I do?
Given that a Summary Administration is a formal probate procedure which requires you to appear in court, we highly recommend reaching out to Stivers Law as these proceedings can be quite complex and a lengthy process.
Does the attorney have to be from the same county as the descendent?
It’s imperative to know that it is not necessary to hire a Stivers Law in the county where the person died or owned assets. For instance, Stivers Law, a Miami Stivers Law, handles probate cases across the state of Florida. The Florida probate process is typically electronic which means everything submitted to the court is done via email or through the court’s secure e-filing portal. Court appearances are either done telephonically or via video conferencing which means the attorney does not have to physically go to the courthouse. This allows the team to work significantly more efficient as it allows the firm to handle more cases quickly.
If you would like to speak with a member of our team to discuss how we can help you through the Florida probate process, please call us at 305-456-3255 or fill out the Contact Us page and we will contact you right away. And for those who would like to do more research – we have you covered! Download our free guide today titled: “A Love One Has Died – Now What?” to learn more about the Florida probate process.
Thank you for your interest in Stivers Law and we look forward to speaking with you soon.