Probate courts in Florida have substantial amount of discretion when it comes to the decision of whether to re-open an estate that was previously closed. In most cases, a probate estate is reopened when new assets are discovered that weren’t discovered at the time the original estate was administered.
There is a provision of Florida law, F.S. 733.903, that expressly allows this process, called “subsequent administration.” It states that a “final settlement” of and estate and the discharge of the personal representative does not prevent further administration of the estate. However, the law also states that an order of discharge won’t be revoked on the basis of a newly discovered will or later will.
However, if such action is going to be taken, it’s very important to consult with an experienced Fort Lauderdale probate attorney.
Take for instance Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal ruling back in 2009 of a pro se petitioner (one who is representing herself) following the closing of her late mother’s estate in 2004. However, rather than file an appeal of the estate’s disclosure and the discharge of the estate’s personal representatives (one of plaintiff’s four siblings), she filed written objections to the state’s closings. Those objections were denied with an order entered in early 2005, which she did not appeal. Ten months after that and again without a probate attorney, she filed a petition for subsequent administration. The probate judge conducted a status conference in mid-2007, after which the court declined to reopen the state for further administration, considering plaintiff did not have a consensus or majority vote among all five siblings. That same day, plaintiff filed a motion to disqualify the judge. That motion and her petition to reopen were formally denied in an order that same month, but plaintiff did not appeal this order. Little more than a year later, plaintiff again filed another motion to reopen the estate and appoint a new personal representative, and this was again denied shortly thereafter. It was at this time, plaintiff appealed. The estate never filed a brief, but as the 3rd DCA noted, the estate had no asset or personal representative and had been closed for several years. The appellate court affirmed the probate court’s denial of plaintiff’s request to reopen, indicating the issues had already been adjudicated and would not be considered again.
Without knowing more about the specific facts, it’s difficult for our probate attorneys to say whether plaintiff had adequate grounds to reopen the estate from the very beginning. However we can say that having a good attorney working on the case from the start would have undoubtedly improved the chances and ensured all proper legal procedures were followed and deadlines met. A lawyer would also have been able to take into consideration of the facts as initially presented and ascertain whether plaintiff had solid grounds for reopening the estate and what the chances might be for obtaining her desired outcome.
Some reasons why a Florida probate estate may need to be reopened may include:
- A previously undiscovered asset belonging to the estate;
- Discovery of existence of an heir not previously known;
- Discovery of debts that were not known about before;
- Discovery of theft, fraud or some other wrongdoing with regard to the administration of the estate.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
More Blog Entries:
Estranged Children and Inheritances: Absent Will, They May Stake Claim, April 25, 2018, Fort Lauderdale Probate Attorney Blog