If you are involved in a Florida probate administration or a dispute regarding a will or other testamentary instrument in Florida, you may be wondering about the jurisdiction of a Florida probate court. Jurisdiction is the power of a court to issue binding determinations and judgments about the matters that come before it. For example, if a court does not have jurisdiction over a person or property, then any decisions issued by that court are void. Therefore, understanding the jurisdiction of a Florida probate court is important in understanding what sort of decisions the court can make.
The circuit courts have jurisdiction over probate matters in Florida.
Probate administration in Florida are conducted by the circuit courts in the county where the decedent resided at the time of death. Jurisdiction for probate courts is provided by Article V Section 20(3) of the Florida Constitution. According to Article V Section 20(3), the circuit courts in Florida have exclusive original jurisdiction “of proceedings relating to the settling of the estate of decedents and minors” and “the granting of letters testamentary, guardianship, involuntary hospitalization, the determination of incompetency, and other jurisdiction usually pertaining to courts of probate.” Furthermore, under section 731.105, Florida Statutes, “Probate proceedings are in rem proceedings.”
“A circuit court, sitting in its probate capacity, has inherent jurisdiction to monitor the administration of an estate and to take such appropriate action as it may deem necessary to preserve the assets of the estate for the benefit of the ultimate beneficiaries.” Delbrouck v. Eberling, 177 So. 3d 66, 70 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015). A Florida probate court also has the power to freeze assets that may be part of the probate estate, pending further evidentiary determination in the case. Perez v. Lopez, 454 So. 2d 777 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984). The jurisdiction of a Florida probate court is invoked through the filing of a petition. Payette v. Clark, 559 So. 2d 630, 632 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990).
As you can see from the above, a Florida circuit court sitting in its capacity as a probate court has extensive jurisdiction in order to settle the affairs of a decedent. However, there are still some areas where a Florida probate will not have jurisdiction over a dispute or distribution of property. For example, a Florida probate court does not have jurisdiction over real property located in another state. If property was not owned by the decedent or if the property is not part of the probate estate (such as if the property is owned by a corporation or other business entity) the probate court may not have jurisdiction over the matter and the action may need to be brought by or against the estate in another court.
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If you are an interested person in a Florida probate case and think that you may be a party to a dispute in the probate proceeding, contact our firm today. Our attorneys are experienced in probate administration and litigation. We will stand up for proper execution of the decedent’s wishes and we will take action to protect your interest in a decedent’s estate. Contact us today to talk to one of our attorneys and to schedule a free consultation.