My Cousin “Minny”

Your Cousin Minny dies in Florida leaving you Florida real property. Now you are tasked with how do you get clear title to the real estate to sell the property? A full blown probate or ancillary probate is costly and time consuming, but it may be the only way to clear title. However, you should first consider a summary administration, which is a simpler probate process.

Summary Administration qualification details:

  • The easiest way to qualify is if the decedent has been dead more than two years, and if so, there is an added bonus as all creditor claims in Florida are also barred (this does not apply to mortgages or secured claims).
  • Alternatively, if the value of the entire Florida estate does not exceed $75,000.00, less property exempt from the claims of creditors, you may be able to use summary administration.
  • Hopefully, the value is over $75,000.00 and the real property is creditor exempt, and thus, the value does not count toward the $75,000.00 cap.
  • The main property exemption in Florida is the homestead exemption.
  • To be exempt, the beneficiary must be in a broad class of the heirs at law of the decedent.

You look at the property appraiser’s website and determine that Cousin Minny did not have a homestead tax exemption. Don’t stop after that step. The homestead tax exemption and the exemption from creditor’s claims are treated differently under Florida law. The homestead tax exemption is construed strictly against the homeowner while the exemption from creditor claims is construed liberally in the interest of the family home for the benefit of those that is it designed to protect. Generally, for the exemption from creditor’s claims to apply, the owner must be a Florida resident, live at the property, and it must be the owner’s intent that the real property was their permanent residence. With homestead in Florida, there are many legal nuances dealing with qualification and limits on homestead devise. If the decedent was dead for less than two years, you will also have to deal with creditor claim issues. That said, it is advantageous to examine if the estate can qualify for summary administration as it is a cheaper and faster way to clear title.

As always, you should contact your real estate or estate planning attorney for additional guidance.

Gary W. Peal, Esq.,
Berlin Patten Ebling, PLLC

This communication is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship, and to the extent anything contained herein could be construed as legal advice or guidance, you are strongly encouraged to consult with your own attorney before relying upon any information contained herein.

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

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