The Probate Department manages cases involving the distribution of the estates of a deceased person. The department also handles the administration of guardianships and trusts.
Probate Court is held before the Honorable Judge Peter L. Dearing in room 741 of the Duval County Courthouse, and his usual Exparte schedule is from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m., Tuesday through Friday. But please note that these hours are subject to change without notice.
We’ll start by defining a few important terms.
Probate is the legal process in which the assets of a deceased person are collected and inventoried, then distributed to pay creditors' claims against the estate. If there are remaining assets, they are then distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries of the person who passed away. The court determines the validity of the will and oversees the process to make sure the estate is properly administered.
A guardianship is a legal procedure in which one person has been appointed by a court to serve as the guardian of another person and to act on behalf of that person and/or his or her property. The person placed under a guardian is called the ward and may be a minor, an incapacitated adult or an adult who has voluntarily asked for a guardian to act on his or her behalf.
A trust is any arrangement in which property is transferred so it can be administered by a trustee for the benefit of another person. Trusts are not typically filed with the Clerk of Courts, but certain petitions are filed with the Probate Department. These include petitions to change the nature of the trust or to address any adversarial issues regarding the trust.
Please note that, as stated in Probate Rule 5.030 of Florida Rules of Court, "Every guardian and every personal representative, unless the personal representative remains the sole interested person, shall be represented by an attorney admitted to practice in Florida." The Clerk’s Office cannot, by law, offer legal advice or assist in preparing legal forms. We also are prevented from providing any legal forms except for one, the Petition for Disposition of Personal Property, which we discuss below. If you need legal advice, you may want to consider speaking with an attorney.
IMPORTANT: Confidential Information within Court Filings
Please be advised that the Florida Supreme Court has substantially amended Rule 2.420 (Public Access to Judicial Branch Records) in SC11-2466. The Rule involves procedures regarding confidentiality of Court records. The amendment was effective May 1, 2013 and may be accessed at the following website link.
Please take special notice that the Court may impose sanctions under Rule 2.420 (i) for non-compliance.
For your convenience, an interactive form for providing notice of confidential information within court filings is available by following the link below.
- Notice of Confidential Information Within Court Filing (Civil)
- Notice of Confidential Information Within Court Filing (Criminal)
|Summary Administration (estates valued @ $1,000 or more)||$345.00|
|Summary Administration (estates valued @ less than $1,000)||$235.00|
|Petition and One Order||$231.00|
|Petition and Order to Admit Will, Authenticated Copies or Transcript of Record||$231.00|
|Guardianship of the Person & Property||$400.00|
|Guardianship of the Property Only||$400.00|
|Guardianship of the Person Only||$235.00|
|Notice of Trust||$41.00|
|Copies per page||$1.00|
|Additional fee for certification||$2.00|
|Additional fee for exemplification||$7.00|
|Disposition of personal property||$231.00|
|Petition for determination of incompetency||$231.00|
|Attorney appearing pro hac vice||$100.00|
|Maintain professional guardian files||$7.50|
|Verified Inventory: Value of ward's property exceeds $25,000||$85.00|
|Modification of Trust||$401.00|
|Upon the filing of the annual accounting, service charges according to the following schedule|
|Estates with a value of $25,000 or less||$20.00|
|Estates with a value of more than $25,000 up to and including $100,000||$85.00|
|Estates with a value of more than $100,000 up to and including $500,000||$170.00|
|Estates with a value of more than $500,000||$250.00|
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Probate and why is it necessary?
Probate is the legal procedure in which the assets of a deceased person are determined and then distributed according to a valid will, if there is one. This is done in keeping with Florida statutes. Assets are distributed to the heirs of the estate and to any others who have a legitimate legal claim against the estate.
Can I deposit my will with the court?
Please understand that a will cannot be accepted for deposit with the court before the death of the person who makes out the will.
What are the responsibilities of the person or firm holding the will of someone who has died?
Within ten days after death, the will should be deposited with the Clerk of Court in the county where the decedent was living on the day she or he died.
What happens if a person dies and has left no will?
In these cases, the assets of the estate will be distributed according to Florida law.
How do I file a statement of claim?
A statement of claim does not have to be filed on any particular form, but it must include all of the following:
- The standard header with the Probate file number and the name of the decedent
- The basis for the claim
- The name and address of the claimant
- The amount of the claim
- The original signature of the claimant or the representative of the claimant
Please note that if you submit the claim by hand-delivery or mail, you’ll need to include the original and one copy. Statements of claim may also be e-filed.
What can I do to be notified when an estate over a decedent is opened?
Any creditor or interested party of an estate may file a Caveat, in accordance with Florida Statute 731.110. This document assures that if a Probate administration has been filed or is ever filed over the decedent, the Caveator will be notified by the Clerk of Court.
Can you tell me over the telephone if a Probate has been opened on a particular individual?
No, we can’t, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Due to the high volume of requests for searches, we cannot do searches over the phone. But there are two ways to find out if a Probate case has been opened on someone:
- Visit the Probate Department in person to conduct a search on our computer system or in the archive books, located in official records, for cases opened before 1977.
- Send in a written request. Please be sure to provide the decedent's full name and date of death, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope and a payment of $2.00 per name for the search fee (please note that we can accept only business checks, cashier’s checks or money orders).
What do I need to do to obtain a court order so that cash assets belonging to my deceased relative can be released to me?
You can start a procedure called a Disposition of Personal Property without Administration if the following conditions are met: the estate in question consists only of cash assets, a vehicle or other personal assets with a total value of $6,000.00 or less, and you paid the funeral expenses for your relative. This procedure may only be done in the county of the decedent’s permanent residence as of the date of death. The filing fee is $231.00, payable in cash, cashier’s check, or money order.
Please note that the following documents must be provided:
- A paid funeral receipt showing who paid for the funeral or, if the funeral has not been paid for, the most current funeral bill
- Paid receipts for any medical expenses incurred 60 days prior to death
- A certified death certificate
- Documents verifying the asset to be released, for example bank statements, stock certificate, check made payable to the decedent or blue-book value and current registration of a vehicle
- The decedent’s original will, if you have it
According to Florida Statutes, the decedent’s personal-use vehicle(s) may be transferred by this procedure only to the surviving spouse, or if there is no surviving spouse, to the children of the decedent.
If the court decides that you are entitled to the decedent’s assets, it will enter an order authorizing the release or transfer of the assets. A certified copy of the order will be mailed to you for submission to anyone who holds the assets. If all funeral costs have not been paid, the court will direct that cash assets be released directly to the funeral home toward payment of the remaining balance.
If you cannot afford to pay the filing fee, payment can be arranged to be taken from cash assets of the decedent.
What is a plenary guardian?
A plenary guardian is someone who has been appointed by the court to exercise all delegable legal rights and powers of the ward. The appointment is made after a finding that the ward is unable to perform all of the tasks necessary to care for his or her own person or property.
What is a limited guardian?
A limited guardian is someone who has been appointed by the court to exercise the legal rights and powers specifically designated in the court’s order. This order is entered after the court has found that the ward lacks the capacity to do some, but not all, of the tasks necessary to care for his or her own person or property. A court may also enter this order after a person has voluntarily petitioned for appointment of a limited guardian.
What is an incapacitated person?
An incapacitated person is someone who has been judicially determined to lack the ability to manage at least some of his or her property or who cannot provide for his or her own health and safety.
What is required for a Declaration of Preneed Guardian?
If you’re concerned about becoming incapacitated, you can ask for a guardian to be appointed for yourself or for your children. The document that identifies the guardian is called a Declaration of Preneed Guardian. It should be properly signed and notarized and filed with the Probate Department. The document doesn’t have to be recorded, and there is no fee for filing it. But if you want it to be recorded, you’ll need to bring it to the Recording Department, pay the applicable recording fees and then file it with the Probate Department.
Where do I go for guardianship training?
Unless waived by a court order, all guardians are required to attend guardianship training. In Duval County, the training is provided by Aging True, formerly known as the Cathedral Foundation, located at 4250 Lakeside Drive, Suite 116, Jacksonville, FL 32210. They may be reached at (904) 807-1203.
What types of reports are required of a guardian?
The guardian of a person is required to file an initial plan within 60 days after letters of guardianship are granted by the court. Unless waived by a court order, annual plans must be filed within 90 days of each anniversary date of granting of the letters of guardianship.
The guardian of the property must file an inventory of the ward’s assets as of the date of appointment within 60 days after letters of guardianship are granted by the court. Unless waived by a court order, annual accountings must be filed within 90 days of each anniversary date of granting of the letters of guardianship.
What are the audit fees required for guardianship reports?
An audit fee of $85.00 is required for the initial inventory if the ward’s assets exceed $25,000. Audit fees for annual accountings vary based on the ending balance of each accounting:
- $25,000 or less: $20.00
- $25,001 to $100,000: $85.00
- $100,001 to $500,000: $170.00
- $500,001 or more: $250.00
What can I do if I can’t afford to hire an attorney?
Please contact Jacksonville Area Legal Aid services. Their address and phone number can be found online or in the phone book.
Monday through Friday (excluding holidays): 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Duval County Clerk of Courts
Attn: PROBATE DEPARTMENT
501 West Adams Street, Room 1173
Jacksonville, FL 32202
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