Once the petition has been made to open formal probate in Florida, the court will let you know if it needs anything further before granting the letters of administration (those let everyone know you have authority to act on behalf of the estate).
Usually the only thing that may be required is a bond. Some Florida probate judges even let you know the amount they will require on their practice preferences page. This way you can prepare the bond application before submitting the petition. We include language indicating that the person named as personal representative should not be required to pay bond. In recent years, the court has declined to give effect to those requests. They’re requiring bond in all but the most exceptional Florida probate cases.
To understand why a bond is required in Florida probate cases, you have to look at what risk is involved. A bond is to protect beneficiaries and creditors from the acts of an unscrupulous personal representative. So if there’s any beneficiary or creditor other than the petitioner, the court will probably require a bond. This way, the creditors and beneficiaries will have something if the personal representative absconds with any probate assets. This way, the bond company takes the hits, instead of the beneficiaries or creditors.
The applications are usually pretty short, and the one we use can be turned around in about a day. So even if we check all the boxes for a Florida probate without bond, we can get the bond taken care of lickety split if the judge wants it. The effort isn’t much more, but how much will a bond cost me to get?
The reaction we usually get when I tell the client the probate judge requires bond is: “But I don’t have $35,000!” If you’re unfamiliar with probate in Florida, this might seem like a reasonable response. This concern is misplaced though. A Florida probate attorney will tell you that a $35,000 bond is usually between $100 and $300 dollars. That’s not nearly as scary as tens of thousands of dollars.
So the effort and cost of securing bond is not that much, and the protection offered by a bond is good for beneficiaries and creditors it’s no surprise that Florida probate judges are requiring it. Any marginal benefit that may be had by resisting a requirement of bond is most often substantially outweighed by the cost. Only in the most exceptional Florida probate cases will qualify for an exemption from bond.
Call us today if you’re trying to make sense of Florida probate, and one of our Florida probate attorneys can help you find out if formal probate administration or summary administration is the appropriate process, as well as what types of costs and speed bumps you can expect. Call or email us using the links on this page to speak to one of our Florida probate attorneys.
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