Among many other things, the Florida Probate Code (Ch. 731 – 735, Fla. Stat.) specifies how and when a beneficiary of an estate will receive his or her share of assets. While pending litigation can substantially delay the distribution of asset, the Code provides for a beneficiary to receive an interim (partial) distribution in a Florida estate while administration and litigation are ongoing.
The individual or entity who presides over the probate process is known in Florida as the personal representative(administrator(trix) or executor(trix) in other jurisdictions). From a technical standpoint, it is the personal representative who facilitates distribution of assets to the beneficiaries per the terms of a will (testate) or Florida law (intestate).
How Can I Receive an Interim Distribution From A Florida Estate?
The Probate Code, which sets forth the powers of a personal representative, explicitly authorizes the personal representative to make a partial distribution, or interim distribution, to beneficiaries. Fla. Stat. § 733.612(26). Importantly, this power to make interim distributions during administration is not absolute. Rather, certain predicates must be established, and where there is a dispute as to the propriety of the interim distribution, a court order may be necessary.
Fundamental to the concept of a partial distribution of assets being made to a beneficiary are the existence of (i) a beneficiary and (ii) sufficient assets.
Accordingly, it must be undisputed that the proposed distributee is a beneficiary. Where there is pending litigation as to an individual’s beneficial interest, a partial distribution cannot be made.
Sufficient Estate Assets
Second, there must be sufficient assets from which to make the interim distribution.
The Probate Code only authorizes the personal representative to make distribution of probate assets.
Even if there are sufficient probate assets in the abstract, a showing must be made that the assets sought to be distributed are not necessary to satisfy claims, administrative expenses, taxes, family allowance, exempt property, or elective share. Fla. Stat. § 733.612(26).
If you are a beneficiary of an estate and believe you are entitled to a partial or interim distribution, you may file a petition with the court where the estate is being administered. Upon demonstrating that there are sufficient assets to make the distribution without compromising the estate as set forth above, the court will likely grant the request.