In a Florida Probate, What is a Caveat?

A "caveat" is a notice which can be filed with a Florida probate court which gives notice that certain actions may not be taken without informing the person who gave the notice. 

Florida law provides that any interested person who is apprehensive that an estate, either testate or intestate, will be administered or that a Will may be admitted to probate without that person's knowledge may file a caveat with the court. The caveat of the interested person, other than a creditor, may be filed before or after the death of the person for whom the estate will be, or is being, administered. The caveat of a creditor may be filed only after the person's death.

If the caveator is a nonresident and is not represented by a Florida attorney who has signed the caveat, the caveator must designate some person residing in the county in which the caveat is filed as the agent of the caveator, upon whom service may be made. If the caveator is represented by an attorney admitted to practice in Florida and who has signed the caveat, then it is not necessary to designate a resident agent.

If a caveat has been filed by an interested person other than a creditor, the court may not admit a Will of the decedent to probate or appoint a personal representative until formal notice of the petition for administration has been served on the caveator or the caveator's designated agent and the caveator has had the opportunity to participate in proceedings on the petition, as provided by the Florida Probate Rules. 

An example where a person might file a caveat could involve an estate where there is--or there may be--a disputed Will. A person could file a caveat to prevent another person from proceeding to probate a Will that is disputed. While the caveat would not prevent a person from petitioning for probate of a disputed Will, it would require the caveator to be notified of the petition. From there, the caveator could decide whether to contest the Will. 

To file a caveat, the person signs a document and files it with the Clerk of the Court, Probate Division, along with a filing fee--currently about $41.00. If you have concerns about a disputed estate or probate, you should consult an experienced probate attorney who can advise and assist you in filing a caveat. 

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