Probate is a court-supervised process to oversee the distribution of the estate of a deceased person. In most cases, the court will appoint a personal representative to execute the decedent’s estate and distribute the assets subject to probate to their rightful heirs – the decedent’s beneficiaries.
In this article, you will discover the fundamental rights of probate beneficiaries in Florida.
Florida Probate Beneficiary Rights – The Essentials
Promptly Receiving Notice of Administration
Once the court appoints a personal representative to execute the decedent’s estate, probate is commenced.
As provided by Florida Statutes §733.212, “the personal representative shall promptly serve a copy of the notice of administration on the (…) persons who are known to the personal representative – the decedent’s surviving spouse and beneficiaries (…).”
Hence, the beneficiaries of an estate subject to probate must receive a copy of the notice of administration as soon as the process begins.
Filing Petition to Determine the Beneficiaries or the Inheritance’s Share
Florida Statutes §733.105 (1) provides that “when property passes by intestate succession or the will is unclear and there is doubt about who is entitled to receive any part of the property, or the shares and amounts that any person is entitled to receive, any interested person may petition the court to determine beneficiaries or their shares.”
Therefore, a beneficiary has a right to petition for the court adjudicating the case to determine the beneficiaries involved in the process, as well as the precise shares and amounts that any person is entitled to receive.
Filing Petition to Revoke the Last Will
Under Florida law, a beneficiary of the last will (or a beneficiary of a prior will) has a right to file a petition in court to revoke the will subject to probate (Fla. Stat. §733.109). Still, revoking a last will is a complex and demanding task, which requires expert legal counseling.
Filing Petition to Remove a Personal Representative
The personal representative has a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of an estate subject to probate. Hence, if a personal representative commits an action that justifies a removal, a beneficiary may file a petition to remove him/her under the law (Fla. Stat. §733.506).
Objecting to Creditors’ Claims
Traditionally, one of the tasks performed by the personal representative is dealing with creditors, either by paying or objecting to claims made against the estate under probate. However, a beneficiary also has a right to file a written objection to a creditor’s claim (Fla. Stat. §733.705).
Receiving Formal Notice of a Lawsuit Against the Estate
In case a third-party files a lawsuit against the estate, the beneficiaries of the state must receive a Formal Notice of that lawsuit (Florida Probate Rule 5.025(c)).
Requesting Accounting from Personal Representative
As described by Florida Probate Rule 5.345, beneficiaries are entitled to receive an accounting filed by a personal representative. Besides, it is possible to compel the personal representative to file an accounting – if they have not done so yet. Additionally, the beneficiary may object to the accounting if necessary.
Requesting Interim Distribution
The term “interim distribution” refers to an advance or partial distribution while the probate process is still pending. As pending proceedings may delay the distribution of an estate, a beneficiary can petition for a partial distribution. Yet, it is permitted only under specific circumstances.
Determining Exempt and Homestead Real Property
Under Florida Probate Rule 5.405, a beneficiary can petition to have the decedent’s real property declared homestead property. Additionally, it is possible to petition the court adjudicating the case to determine whether a property is exempted or subject to family allowance.