The death of a loved one can be a difficult time for family and friends. But it can also be a time of confusion and uncertainty, especially when it comes to probate records in the state of Florida. Most people are unaware that probate documents are public records, and that anyone can access them. But what exactly are probate records, and what do they contain? Probate courts are the courts that handle the court-supervised process in which the estate of a person who has died is organized, assets are collected, bills and taxes are paid, and then proceeds are distributed to the beneficiaries of the will.
Court records in the state of Florida are generally public records, including most Florida probate court records.
What Are Probate Records?Probate records include wills, bonds, letters, petitions, order books, inventories, and agreements. These documents provide a detailed account of the deceased's assets and liabilities, as well as any instructions they may have left for their estate.
Are Probate Records Public in Florida?Yes, most probate documents are public records in Florida.
However, inventories and accounts filed in probate estates are confidential and can only be seen by the personal representative, personal representative's attorney, or an interested party, as defined by Florida probate laws.
How Can I Access Probate Records?Florida courts do not make wills or other probate records available directly over the Internet. But anyone who comes to the clerk's office and asks to see the will, or even make a copy, is free to do so. County judges and county clerks have maintained Florida probate records in each court since 1968. Once the will is filed with the probate court, it becomes a matter of public record and can be accessed by anyone interested in its contents.
The court clerk will send you, either online or by mail, copies of any document that is not sealed by Florida law, probate rules, or a court order.
What Are Testamentary Assets?Testamentary assets are those assets that are subject to succession. This includes property owned by spouses as tenants in its entirety at the time of death of the first spouse; life insurance policies payable to a specific beneficiary; and policies payable to the deceased's estate.
How Can I Avoid Probate Court Participation?The most effective way to pass on your estate while keeping the details of your holdings private is to eliminate the need for probate court participation.
This complex process generally requires an extensive list of documents, many of which can only be found in previous probate records. If you need help navigating the probate process, experienced attorneys can guide you through all the steps needed to close the estate.