Florida Probate Beneficiaries’ Rights
When your spouse, parent, sibling, or child passes away, you are most likely a beneficiary of their estate. You may be named in their will, or if they passed away without a will, then you may inherit under Florida’s intestate laws.
As a beneficiary during probate, you have certain rights, including:
- Notice of Probate: You have the right to receive proper legal notice that probate administration has begun. You also have the right to receive notice of an appointment of the personal representative of the estate. This is essential since you may not agree with who is appointed, in which case, you would need to speak with a lawyer quickly to file a timely objection. However, if your loved one had a will and appointed a personal representative, then you do not have the right to advance notice of the will being admitted to probate or the appointment of the named representative.
- Notice of Administration: After a personal representative has been appointed by the court, that person’s next step is to send all interested individuals a Notice of Administration. This notice provides you with information regarding your legal right to dispute the appointment of the personal representative and/or the validity of the will within 90 days. Depending on the facts of your loved one’s estate, probate can move quickly. If you have any concerns, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
- Determination of Beneficiaries: Who is and is not a beneficiary may be in question. If you are not being treated as a beneficiary when you believe you should, you have the right to file a petition for the probate court to determine the beneficiaries of the estate.
- Copy of the Estate’s Accounting: One of the personal representative’s duties is to create a full accounting of your loved one’s estate, including an inventory of their assets, the assets’ values, and debts. You have a right to a copy of this accounting. You also have the right to ask how an asset’s value was obtained and dispute that value.
- Seek an Interim Accounting: Before you are set to receive a final accounting of the estate, you may petition the court to require the personal representative to file an interim accounting. Whether or not the court requires this is within its discretion, so you should speak with an attorney about whether or not you have a strong basis for asking for this extra step.
- Object to a Creditor’s Claim: As a beneficiary, you may object to a creditor’s claim on your loved one’s estate. Although, this is usually handled by the personal representative.
- An Efficient Administration of the Estate: The personal representative is required to administer probate in good faith. They should fairly handle the creditors of the estate and the beneficiaries. They should also not delay the administration of the estate. If you believe the personal representative is acting in bad faith, talk to an attorney immediately. You have the right to file a petition to remove the personal representative.
- Determination of Your Interest: As a beneficiary, you have the right to petition the probate court to determine your specific interest in the estate. This can be necessary when there are many beneficiaries and you are not sure of the amount you are entitled to receive based on the will and Florida law.
- Notice of Lawsuit Against Estate: If anyone files a lawsuit against the estate, such as another beneficiary or a creditor, you have the right to receive notice of the action.
- Right to Homestead Determination: You may petition the court to determine whether your loved one’s real property is protected as homestead property or exempt.
Let a West Palm Beach Probate Lawyer Help You
If you are or should be a beneficiary in a Florida probate matter, you should have independent legal advice. Contact the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A. in West Palm Beach to learn more about your rights.