Out-of-state heirToday, families live spread out across the country and the world.  This means that sometimes a loved one will pass away with property in Florida but some or all of their heirs live in different states, and sometimes, even different countries.  Because the property that is left behind is located in Florida, the Florida Probate courts have jurisdiction over the cases.

What do you need to know if you are an out-of-state Heir of an Estate administered in Florida?   

1. Out-of-State Personal Representatives

The Personal Representative is an individual who is appointed by the court to ensure that the assets in the Decedent’s estate are properly distributed and the matter is closed.  To learn more about the role of the Personal Representative, check out this previous article. Regardless of whether the Personal Representative is a resident or non-resident of Florida, they are required to be represented by a Florida licensed attorney in the Probate process. 

Florida law provides limitations on out-of-state individuals serving as a Personal Representative in a Florida probate case.  Generally, the law prevents non-residents from serving as a Florida Personal Representative unless they are biologically or legally related to the individual who passed away.  This includes adopted children or parents and spouses of those who are biologically related to the Decedent. If you were appointed the Personal Representative by the Decedent or you are a family member interested in being appointed as the Personal Representative, you must find a licensed, Florida attorney to assist you. If you have any questions about being a non-resident Personal Representative, please feel free to call The Probate Law Firm at (305) 456-3255.  

2. Florida-Specific Probate Issues

Although the rules of probate may be similar in different states, there are some Florida-specific laws and rules that can be confusing for out-of-state heirs.  As mentioned above, Florida has requirements for both residents and nonresidents serving as the Personal Representative. Another example of how the Florida probate process is different than the process of other states is how it deals with Homestead property. When a Decedent owned property that has a Homestead property exemption, there are certain steps that must be taken during the probate process to protect the status of the property.  With Homestead property, there are certain procedures that must be followed.  

Because there are Florida-specific rules for the probate process, if you have any questions about the process please make sure you are looking at the Florida laws or consulting an attorney who is experienced with the Florida process.  It is essential for the Personal Representative or other out-of-state heirs to find an experienced attorney who can advise them on the consequences of Homestead property or other Florida specific procedures. 

3. Do I Have to Travel Back and Forth to Florida?

Often times, people are willing to commit the time necessary to perform the duties as the Personal Representative but they cannot travel back and forth between say Arizona and Florida every time something needs to be done.  That is okay. Travel is generally not a requirement for serving as the Personal Representative. 

There may be a limited number of situations where a Personal Representative will need to travel to Florida to conduct the business of the estate.  For example, if there is a property being sold, the Personal Representative may need to be present for the closing. If the travel is due to the performance of the duties of the Personal Representative, the costs may be reimbursed to the Personal Representative.  In most other situations, the attorney for the Personal Representative can attend any court hearings on the behalf of the Personal Representative. 

If you are an heir that lives outside of the state of Florida, you will likely not be required to travel to Florida for the probate case.  If you are concerned about protecting your interest in the estate, consider hiring an attorney who can represent your interest. This would not be necessary if the case is relatively simple and there is a Personal Representative appointed.  The reason that an out-of-state heir might consider hiring a probate attorney is if there is a contest of the Will where the validity of a Will is being determined.  

4. Creditor’s Claims—Publish Notice in County Where Probate Is Administered

When someone dies, their debt does not just disappear.  As part of the probate process, there is a creditor period during which creditors can make claims against the estate.  An example of a common creditor is a provider who pays upfront for the medical care before an individual passes away. When the person dies, the provider wants to make sure that they will be reimbursed.  The general rule is that if a creditor is known, they must be given notice that the probate is open so that they can submit their claim. 

If the individual who passed away owned property in Florida but also lived in another state, it is useful if the Personal Representative or out-of-state heirs can provide the attorney with any potential creditors so that they can be given notice of the probate case.  Otherwise, notice to the creditors will be published in a commonly circulated newspaper in the county where the probate case is opened. Out-of-state heirs can be helpful in moving the probate process along if they can provide information about potential creditors. 

Conclusion

We handle many cases where the clients live outside of Florida, in different states, time zones, and countries.  We are always willing to answer and questions you may have about serving as an out-of-state Personal Representative or if you are an heir living outside of Florida.  The most important thing for out-of-state individuals to understand is that you need to find an attorney who has experience with the Florida Probate process and who is licensed to practice in Florida. If we cannot assist you with your case, we are happy to help you find another attorney who can. Contact us today.

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