Dealing with the probate process can be overwhelming, especially when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. The process involves the legal distribution of the deceased’s assets, and each state has its own unique set of rules and regulations. In this article, we will break down everything you need to know about Florida probate.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person’s estate is administered and their assets are distributed according to the individual’s will or state laws. The process generally includes identifying and inventorying the deceased’s property, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to heirs or beneficiaries.
Types of Probate Administration in Florida
Florida recognizes two main types of probate administration: Formal administration and Summary administration.
This is the most common type of probate and is used when the value of the deceased’s assets is greater than $75,000. A personal representative, usually nominated in the will, is appointed by the court to manage the estate. The representative is responsible for collecting and managing assets, paying debts, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.
This is a faster, simpler process for smaller estates with a total value of $75,000 or less or when the deceased has been dead for more than two years. With summary administration, there is no need to appoint a personal representative, and the court directly orders the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries.
Role of the Personal Representative
The personal representative (also known as the executor or administrator) is responsible for managing the estate during the probate process. Their duties include:
- Identifying, collecting, and managing the deceased’s assets
- Paying debts and taxes owed by the estate
- Distributing the remaining assets to the heirs or beneficiaries
- Providing an accounting to the court detailing the estate’s financial transactions
The personal representative must act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries and is held accountable to the court.
When Is Probate Not Required in Florida?
Probate may not be necessary in Florida under certain circumstances, including:
- Assets held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship
- Payable-on-death or transfer-on-death accounts
- Life insurance policies with designated beneficiaries
- Assets held in a revocable living trust
These assets pass directly to the surviving co-owner or designated beneficiary, bypassing the probate process.
Florida Probate Timeline
The length of the probate process in Florida varies depending on the complexity of the estate and any disputes that may arise. However, on average, formal administration can take anywhere from six months to a year, or even longer in complex cases. Summary administration is usually quicker, often taking only a few weeks to a few months.
Costs Associated with Probate in Florida
Probate costs in Florida can include court filing fees, attorney’s fees, personal representative fees, and other expenses related to the administration of the estate. Florida’s law sets the maximum fees for personal representatives and attorneys based on the value of the estate. However, the court may approve additional fees for extraordinary services.
The Perfect Investment: RAD Diversified and Income-Producing Farms
Amidst the global lockdown of 2020, Dutch Mendenhall, founder of RADD America, began looking for an alternative to standard residential real-estate investments. So, he turned his analysis to farms and was blown away by the immense potential he saw. After going public in late 2019, RADD America purchased US farmland and made slices of the real estate available at minimum investments of $10,000.
Income-producing farms vs. other real estate asset classes
According to Mendenhall, an apartment complex in today’s US real estate market commands approximately a 4% or 5% cap rate. Farms offer somewhere around a 15% to 20% cap rate.
“When I first began looking at investing in farms, I compared each acre to an apartment or housing unit,” Mendenhall recalls. “The variety that income-producing farms provide is what I really love about them as an opportunity. With one season producing wheat and corn the next, you can double tap — you can raise livestock on top of agriculture. Putting money into the farm only pays off in time. Everything from improving soil to increasing irrigation makes a major impact on potential income, and so much of America’s farmland has fallen into disrepair during the last 20 years.”
When Mendenhall began investing during the early days of the pandemic, sustainable acres of producing farmland sold anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000. Today, he finds that income-producing acres of farmland easily sell for $9,500 to $10,000.
“I’ve seen farmland values almost double during the last couple of years,” Mendenhall says. “Currently, we’re in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Idaho, but we are analyzing land all over America. What reports don’t show is the difference between a properly maintained acre of farmland and an acre that is in disarray. There’s only so much workable farmland on the market today. We’ve hit the tipping point, and now, there’s a scarcity of land for people to buy. If you have the opportunity to purchase amazing agricultural land, you have to pull the trigger quickly.”
Income-producing farms as an asset class
Mendenhall is no stranger to investors. Since 2006, he’s connected them to deals in short sales, wholesaling, residential properties, and storage units, though he admits that every asset class has caused the same excitement as farmland. “At this point, we can’t find enough bargains for our investors,” he says. “They take real pride in their investments and keep asking us for more.”
RADD America takes a true grassroots approach when connecting its investors to farmland. “The farming world is different from any other in real estate,” explains Mendenhall. “We start by having our acquisitions and agricultural teams meet with farmers. When we get ready to brand cattle or plant, all the local farmers come and help. In the same spirit, our teams go out and help the local farmers when it’s their turn to brand and plant. To do it right, you have to build a relationship and a connection that’s quite different than other types of investing.”
RADD America is composed of expert investors and expert farmers. The company offers its investments through fractionalized ownership. In other words, the company purchases one farm and then allows a joint pool of investors to own it together.
“If you don’t have a team that knows how to farm and maximize income, you’re not going to get the best possible return for investors,” warns Mendenhall. “Thankfully, our team isn’t so big for this type of investing that we forget who we are, and we have the economy to scale at a great pace.”
The impact of global competition on income-producing farm investments
RADD America closely monitors global trends. In Mendenhall’s experience, investors win when they move before the market. However, when they move after the market, they lose.
“When Russian first invaded and sparked its war with Ukraine, for example, we kept a close eye on its global impact,” he says. “As one of the largest producers of wheat in the world, we knew that Ukraine — now in the midst of a war — wasn’t going to be able to produce wheat at the same scale, so someone else needs to step in and fill the gap. We’re constantly monitoring what’s happening in the world to stay on top of evolving trends.”
In terms of global competition, Mendenhall is frustrated by foreign entities staking ownership of American farmland and agriculture. In this area, China has positioned itself as the number one threat to the sovereignty of the United States.
“When foreign powers have ownership of agricultural land in the US, it puts us all at risk as Americans,” remarks Mendenhall. “Over the past few years, we’ve seen soil quality erode, closures of meatpacking plants, and numerous fires. The likelihood of nuclear war in this age is very small. The quiet war of buying American agriculture and unsettling the American dollar is the threat we face today.”
Clearly, RADD America has a lot to pay attention to at home and abroad. “We’re monitoring weather patterns and making one-year, three-year, and five-year predictions,” Mendenhall explains. “We’re also paying close attention to interest rates to see where this shifting economy is headed. The up-and-down cycles are faster than they’ve ever been. Monitoring the industry is critical. With expert investors and agricultural specialists from RADD America on your team, farmland can be one of your most promising and rewarding investment opportunities.”
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