Opening an Intestate Estate

Intestate estates in Florida commence when any interested person (heirs or creditors) files a petition for administration with the local probate court of decedent. For example, if decedent died while domiciled in West Palm Beach, the probate court jurisdiction would be within the 15th Judicial Circuit. The petitioner must state their interest in the estate, information about the last known address of decedent, names of known beneficiaries, a request for the court to appoint a Florida personal representative and finally in an intestate estate, a statement that after exercising reasonable diligence to locate any unrevoked wills, that none can be located.

Under Florida laws of intestacy, the surviving spouse (if any) is entitled to preference in being appointed the personal representative of an estate. If there is no spouse, then a majority in interest of the heirs may select the personal representative. In either case, the court has final say in the decision. Once the court makes that final decision, letters of administration are issued which state that the personal representative has been appointed and qualified by the court to handle the deceased’s estate. The personal representative must be represented by a Florida licensed attorney throughout this process.

After the Letters of Administration are issued, the personal representative must then serve this notice to all known beneficiaries and creditors. A Notice of Administration or Notice to Creditors is then sent to any known party who may have a claim against the estate of the deceased Florida resident. Any interested person who receives notice has three months to file an objection challenging the qualification of the appointed personal representative, the venue, or the jurisdiction of the court.

Once the Florida Probate Court determines that all costs of administration and valid creditors’ claims have been paid, the next step is to distribute the Florida probate assets via Chapter 732, the Florida Statutes governing intestacy.

Formal Florida Probate, even under intestacy, is a long and complicated process. It can be often be difficult to determine if you received your rightful share of an intestate estate. If you live in the West Palm, Broward, or Miami-Dade area and feel you received your improper share of an estate as a beneficiary or creditor, the probate litigation team at Chepenik Trushin will help you obtain the proper legal relief. Please feel free to contact us for an initial first consultation.