Beneficiary Rights in Florida Estates & Trusts
If you are a beneficiary of a Florida estate or trust, you have many, many rights. Finding out what rights you have is not the problem: never the problem. Figuring out what to do if those rights have been violated…well, that may be a challenge for some beneficiaries. Why? Well, most beneficiaries of estate and trusts are “civilians”: they are not used to making demands, suing people, bringing counter claims, setting depositions and conducting investigations into learning what is happening to your money, trust or inheritance. That’s were a strong, experienced, and confident probate litigator in Florida can come in.
Often, beneficiaries don’t realize all that they are entitled to. Beneficiaries are entitled to know where the money is, who is handling the money, what the money is being spent on and where the money is going.
For beneficiaries of estates or probates, you can refer to the Florida Probate Code.
What duties does a personal representative of an estate owe you? Consider reading this.
For beneficiaries of Florida Trusts, consider reading the Florida Trust Code.
For a “laundry list” of the duties which a Florida trustee owes to a trust beneficiary, consider reading this summary.
At the opening of a probate, a beneficiary has a right to be given notice and information regarding the estate administration and the appointing of a personal representative.
If the estate is testate (i.e., there is a will) and the person who is seeking appointment as the personal representative is the one named in the will as the personal representative, no advance notice is necessarily required. Moreover, a will can be admitted to probate without advance notice.
However, if a beneficiary or interested person wants to prevent a named personal representative from seeking a will’s admission to probate, then he or she may exercise their rights to file a “caveat” per Fla. Stat. 731.110. This caveat by an interested person or beneficiary can even be filed before the decedent’s death (a creditor’s caveat may only be filed after the person’s death, however). This caveat mechanism is often exercised when one is concerned (or, as the statute says, “apprehensive”) that an estate would be administered or a will admitted without their knowledge. The caveat is basically a “Notice” which requires that advance notice be provided to that person, prior to the admission of the will to probate and before the personal representative is appointed by the probate court.
Once appointed, the personal representative must give the beneficiaries a “Notice of Administration” per Fla. Stat. 733.212. See also Fla. Prob. R. 5.240. This Notice sets out a handful of rights as to challenging a will and as to the appointed personal representative. Importantly, those who receive this Notice have 3 months to file written objections or challenges, including challenges as to the validity of the will, the venue of the probate proceedings, or the jurisdiction of the court. If not filed, the statute provides that these objections are deemed “forever barred”.
What if a later will is discovered? An interested person can petition to revoke the probate of the earlier will and probate the later will (unless the probate administration has already been completed and the personal representative discharged). Fla. Stat. 733.208. Interestingly, if a new will is subsequently admitted to probate, the Notice of Administration procedures begin anew and the personal representative is to promptly serve a new Notice of Administration on those beneficiaries. Fla. Stat. 733.212(7).