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Who is an “Interested Person” in a Florida Probate?

| Oct 2, 2020 | Firm News |

Throughout the Florida Probate Code (contained in Chapters 731-735, Fla. Stat.) and the Florida Rules of Probate Procedure, the term “interested person” is frequently used for purposes of deciding a number of important rights or obligations. In many instances, only an interested person may act or is entitled to notifications in the probate. Here are just a few examples:

  • Section 733.202 Stat. provides that an interested person may petition for the administration of an estate.
  • Section 733.105, Stat. provides that an interested party may petition to determine beneficiaries.
  • Section 705 Fla. Stat. provides that an interested party may object to a creditor claim.

These examples demonstrate that an interested person has rights and obligations—so knowing who is an interested person is important to know.

Section 733.201 (23) Fla. Stat.  of Florida’s Probate Code provides as follows:

“Interested person” means any person who may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the particular proceeding involved. In any proceeding affecting the estate or the rights of a beneficiary in the estate, the personal representative of the estate shall be deemed to be an interested person. In any proceeding affecting the expenses of the administration and obligations of a decedent’s estate, or any claims described in s. 733.702(1), the trustee of a trust described in s. 733.707(3) is an interested person in the administration of the grantor’s estate. The term does not include a beneficiary who has received complete distribution. The meaning, as it relates to particular persons, may vary from time to time and must be determined according to the particular purpose of, and matter involved in, any proceedings.

The key to understanding this definition is to understand that the scope of who is an interested person is broad—but it is not unlimited. Certainly, beneficiaries and the Personal Representative are included. When the decedent died having established a Trust, the Trustee will also be an interested party. Creditors likely would also be “interested” since their rights to be paid could be directly impacted. However, more remote persons might not fall within the category of persons who would “reasonably be expected to be effected by the outcome”.

An example might help. Consider a situation where John dies and names his daughter, Sally, as beneficiary of his Will and he names his sister, Mary, as Personal Representative of his estate. A probate is opened and as it proceeds, Sally’s husband, Bob, becomes unhappy about Mary’s decision as Personal Representative not to object to a large claim filed by a particular creditor. Bob feels that Mary is not acting wisely in her decision. Can Bob object to the claim as an interested party? The answer would likely be “no.” However, Sally surely could object since she is a person who may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the claim. If the claim is allowed and paid, then the amount Sally will receive as beneficiary could be lessened.  As such she is certainly an interested person.

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