Formal Administration

Formal administration is the typical route – the one in the films, with the appointment of the executor (Florida changed this term to “personal representative,” so I have to type more and sound more pedestrian), the marshalling of assets, probate of the will (which just means the judge admits it to the official record book – there’s no theatrical “reading,” which is a shame, really), and then distribution and winding up of the estate.

Formal probate is the better course in complicated estates, where real property exists in multiple counties or states (or countries), where litigation is expected either within the estate (beneficiary-initiated) or on behalf of the decedent (e.g., wrongful death suits, or continuation of civil suits initiated by the decedent prior to death).  Florida’s probate system is very well organized and efficient, and not nearly as costly as the trust peddlers would have folks believe.  Benefits include the foreclosure of creditor claims, the proper passing of real property title, and the settlement of disputes among beneficiaries or heirs (testate estates, where valid wills exist, have beneficiaries; intestate estates have heirs, whose shares and entitlement is determined according to the Florida Probate Code).

Often, no probate is required upon the passing of the first partner of a married couple, as long as the assets (home, bank accounts) have been titled jointly – as tenants by the entirety or as joint tenants with right of survival – or pay/ transfer on death titles.