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Can an “Interested Person” Reopen a Florida Probate or Estate ?

Uncategorized Nov 9, 2018
post about Can an “Interested Person” Reopen a Florida Probate or Estate ?

What is an “interested person”? Can an interested person reopen a Florida estate? What do probate litigators in Boca Raton need to know about “interested persons”? Are you questioning whether you are an interested person when it comes to your brother’s estate? If your brother dies, are you automatically considered an interested person because you are his sibling?  Can you be an interested person if you have no financial interested in the estate?

Any interested person in the Florida probate, or the Florida estate, may file a petition to reopen the estate. How do you do this? Trust lawyers know that a petition must be filed with the probate court that explains why the estate should be reopened. When an estate is administratively closed, the probate court typically withdraws, revokes, or rescinds, the “letters of administration”, which granted authority to the personal representative to administer the estate. The court will most likely, in addition to revoking letters of administration, withdraw any order appointing the personal representative. So, if you are reopening a Florida estate that has been administratively closed, your petition should address who will serve as personal representative. Once the court grants your petition to reopen the estate, and once the court appoints a personal representative to administer the Florida estate, the Florida probate process may then continue.

It is important to note the following: Just because an estate has been “closed” by the probate court, does not mean that the personal representative who previously served is “discharged” or relieved of liability. A personal representative of a Florida estate is not relieved of liability from the probate unless a court says so: by issuing an order of “discharge”, which states that the personal representative served admirably, and that what he or she did as personal representative was proper. Therefore, if you previously served as personal representative of a Florida estate, which was closed administratively, you may wish to seek your discharge so that you are relieved of potential liability. This is done by filing a petition with the court asking to be relieved of liability.

What if you go ahead and file a petition to reopen an estate and someone files a counterclaim arguing that you are not an interested person? This is just what happened in Price v. Lotlikar. This May 24,2017 opinion from the Court of Appeals of Oregon involves litigation to determine whether certain people are “interested persons” in an estate matter. Although this is not a Florida trust and estates case, Palm Beach estate lawyers may find themselves litigating over a very similar fact pattern. Here, two sisters petitioned to reopen the estate of their deceased brother to investigate a certain transaction. The appellants argued that because the sisters had no financial interest in their brother’s estate, they were not “interested persons” and, therefore,  could not petition to reopen the estate. What did the appellate court say about this? To read the entire opinion, click here.