What is the proper venue for probate proceedings?

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Various types of lawsuits have different requirements for venues. A venue deals with the locality of the lawsuit or where the lawsuit will be filed or commenced. Typically, the venue is a county or district and is chosen based on the subject matter of the case or the where the defendant resides. For instance, if there is a cause of action for a slip and fall occurring in Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, Florida will be the venue of the lawsuit.

In matters of probate administration, Florida Statute 733.101 lays out the possibilities for venues. It states that the venue shall be (a) in the county in this state where the decedent was domiciled. “Domicile” is defined in Florida Statute 731.201(13) as “a person’s usual place of dwelling and [domicile] shall be synonymous with residence.” Florida Statute 733.101 also gives two options if the decedent was not domiciled in Florida: a probate administration may commence in any county where the decedent’s property is located or if they have no property in Florida then in the county where any debtor of the decedent resides.

A short example can help explain these three paragraphs. James, John, and Chris were driving in a car on I-95 and get in a wreck. All three of them unfortunately pass away. James was a resident of Miami-Dade County and his domicile was there. John permanently lived in Georgia but had an apartment he rented out in Broward County as an investment. Chris lived in Michigan but bought and financed his Porsche through a dealership whose business operates through headquarters in Palm Beach County. James’ last will and testament will be admitted in Miami-Dade County since his domicile was in that county. John’s last will and testament will be admitted in Broward County if need be. Chris’ last will and testament will be admitted in Palm Beach County if need be.

Venue is important to understand because, according to Florida Statute 733.103(1), a will shall be ineffective until the will is admitted to probate in this state or in the state where the decedent was domiciled. The best way to ensure that the probate administration process is handled correctly is to consult an experienced probate attorney.

If you or someone you know lives in the West Palm, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami-Dade area and need help opening an estate or creating or amending an estate plan, the experienced attorneys at Chepenik Trushin will help with these estate planning needs. Please feel free to contact us for an initial consultation.

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