Probate & Guardianship

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Probate & Guardianship

201 South Indian River Drive, 3rd Floor
Fort Pierce, FL 34950
Directions To This Location

Hours of Operation:

8AM -5PM, Monday - Friday
(Excluding Holidays)

Phone: (772) 462-6920
Fax: (772) 462-6984


Probate & Guardianship

The Probate & Guardianship Department maintains the files on probate estates, wills, and guardianships for both minors and incapacitated persons. See Fees & Costs for the current filing fee and accepted payments.

Probate of Estates

A probate action is necessary whenever a deceased person leaves titled assets in his/her name alone. A petition for probate may be filed that allows distribution of the decedent's assets. The court oversees the estate to make sure debts are paid and proper distribution is made.

A Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration is a proceeding used to request release of the assets of the deceased to the heirs or other qualified parties. The estate must consist of personal property exempt from claim of creditors and nonexempt personal property that does not exceed the sum of preferred funeral expenses ($6,000) and reasonable medical and hospital expenses of the last 60 days of the last illness. There cannot be any real estate in the property. When filing, you must provide:

  • A certified copy of the death certificate.
  • The funeral bill showing who paid the funeral bill. If the paid funeral bill is less than the value of the assets, paid medical bills from the last 60 days (not covered by insurance), may be provided to compensate for the difference. Paid medical bills must show the name of the person who paid them.
  • Specific information on accounts that are to be disbursed, such as account numbers, copy of checks, and transaction amounts. Locations & addresses of institutions may also be required.

  

  • Production of Wills - F.S. 732.901 The will of the decedent must be deposited by the custodian with the Clerk's office in the county where the decedent resided within ten days after receiving information of the death of the maker of the will. The custodian must provide the decedent's date of death or social security number to the Clerk when depositing the will. There is an index fee of $1 to deposit the will with the Clerk's office.
  • Disposition of Personal Property without Administration - F.S. 735.301;Rule 5.420 
    Disposition of Personal Property without Administration a/k/a Small Estate proceeding may be filed without the assistance of an attorney. The Clerk can assist you with the filing of an Application for Disposition of Personal Property without Administration. To qualify for a small estate the decedent's assets must be in the form of:
    • Personal property exempt under the provisions of Florida Statute 732.402
    • Personal property exempt from the claims of creditors under the Constitution of Florida
    • Nonexempt personal property the value of which does not exceed the sum of the amount of preferred funeral expenses and reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses of the last 60 days of the last illness
  • Formal Administration - F.S. 733 In a Formal Administration the court appoints a personal representative to be in charge of the estate and issues Letters of Administration, giving authority to the personal representative to act.
  • Summary Administration - F.S. 735 This type of administration is a probate proceeding when the value of the entire estate, less the value of property exempt from claims does not exceed $75,000 or the decedent has been dead for more than two years and the decedent's will, if any, does not direct a formal administration.
  • Petition to Admit Foreign Will - F.S. 734 The purpose of this petition is to transfer title of real property in this state of a nonresident by means of filing an authenticated copy of the foreign will, the petition for probate, and the order admitting the will to probate. This petition may only be filed if the decedent has been dead for more than two (2) years.
  • Ancillary Administration - F.S. 734 Ancillary Administrations are used when it is necessary to appoint a personal representative to act on behalf of the estate when the decedent is a nonresident because his/her assets are titled in their name alone. The petition must be accompanied by authenticated copies of the probate proceedings from the state the decedent was a resident of or if no estate was required an authenticated copy of the will, or if no will, then the non-resident petition must state that there are no proceedings in another state or country. The authority is given to the personal representative by the court at the time of the appointment and when Letters of Administration are issued to the representative so that he/she may complete the administration of the estate.
  • Caveat - F.S. 731 A caveat may be filed with the Clerk by a creditor or an interested person to prevent either probate of a will or administration of an estate without notice.
  • Curatorship - F.S. 733 Curatorships are filed when the court needs to appoint a curator and issue Letters of Curatorship to take charge of the estate of a decedent until a personal representative is appointed.
  • Notice of Trust - F.S. 736 A Notice of Trust is filed with the Clerk upon the death of a settlor of a trust. The notice of trust must contain the settlor's date of death, the name of the settlor, the title of the trust, if any, the date of the trust, and the name and address of the trustee.
  • Trust - F.S. 736 Trust cases in the Probate Department are usually opened to appoint a Successor Trustee on an existing Trust or to dissolve an existing Trust.

Guardianships are legal proceedings in which a guardian is appointed to exercise legal rights of an incapacitated person, minor, voluntary wards, or developmentally disabled individuals. A guardian makes decisions and takes action regarding the wellbeing of the ward. All guardianship matters in Florida require an attorney pursuant to Florida Probate Rule 5.030.

An individual, through an attorney, may file for a guardian to be appointed for:

  • an adult person when they believe that person is not mentally capable of taking care of himself/herself
  • an adult person on their own behalf may file a voluntary guardianship when they may be physically unable to manage their property

An individual can be appointed as guardian of the person only, the property only, or both the person and property. The guardian may also be given limited rights or total rights. 

Guardianships are filed for minors when the minor child has inherited or received money or property in excess of $15,000. In this type of case, a guardian of the property is all that is needed if the minor child's parents are living. If a minor child's parents are deceased, a guardianship of the person may also be required.