Who Is An Interested Person?

As experienced estate planning lawyers in Central Florida, we’ve helped countless clients organize their estates and secure their legacies. When you’re ready to secure your family’s financial future, contact the William C. Roof Law Group to schedule a consultation

When a person dies, their estate — all of their assets, personal property, and debts — passes into new ownership. By leaving a comprehensive estate plan, the decedent (deceased person) provides a roadmap for how they want their estate to be divided and distributed. If they die without an estate plan or even a will (also called dying intestate), the fate of their estate is decided by the probate court. 

In either case, there are typically parties that have a stake in the outcome. In the world of estate law, an individual with a stake in an estate’s administration is called an “interested person.” This status not only conveys an interest in how an estate is treated but also certain legal rights, responsibilities, and particular purpose.

If the recent passing of a loved one or family member has you wondering about whether you have a claim in their estate, don’t worry: William C. Roof Law Group is here to help. This article will explain everything you need to know about interested persons according to Florida estate law, including why soliciting legal advice from a qualified attorney can help you fast-track results.

Legal Definition of Interested Person in Florida Statute

According to Florida probate rules, an “interested person” is someone who has a stake or interest in how an estate is administered. According to Section 731.201(23) of the Florida Probate Code, an interested person is any individual or party that can be reasonably expected to be affected by the outcome of estate administration proceedings and its complete distribution. This may include the following: 

  • Beneficiaries who are named in the will
  • Heirs, in the absence of a will
  • Creditors with claims against the decedent’s estate
  • The trustee of a trust related to the estate, the person responsible for managing a trust and distributing it to the beneficiary of the trust
  • Surviving family members of the decedent and lineal descendants, including spouses and children

Keep in mind that Florida courts use a contextual approach when determining whether or not someone qualifies as an interested person. In many cases, the nature of the estate proceedings and the specific elements and issues involved determine whether someone meets the definition of an interested person. 

How Do You Know if You Are an Interested Person in a Florida Estate?

For many people, the knowledge that they are an interested party to a decedent’s estate is obvious. However, it’s not so clear to everyone. Certain factors, such as complicated family dynamics, estrangement, the absence of a will, outdated estate planning documents, and more, can leave individuals unsure of their standing. 

If you’re unsure of whether you qualify as an interested person to a Florida estate, don’t worry:

There are ways to determine your status. Here are some of the ways to find answers: 

  • Request estate documents. If probate proceedings are underway, you can ask the personal representative of the estate (executor) for a copy of the will or trust documents. You may also be able to formally request access to these documents through probate court. 
  • Examine the probate court filings. If you live in a county where probate documents are available to the public, you can check probate court records to see what estate documents have been filed. 
  • Contact the estate’s executor. If you know or can figure out who the executor of the estate is, you can contact them and ask to confirm whether or not your name is listed as a beneficiary, heir, or creditor. 
  • Monitor probate proceedings. In active probate proceedings, the personal representative is required to contact interested parties about court hearings, as well as about significant filings. 
  • Consult an estate planning attorney. If you’re struggling to find answers, a Florida estate planning lawyer can help navigate your interests in the estate. 

In situations where an estate is especially complex or proceedings are congested, an estate planning attorney can be an invaluable resource in your investigation. However, even if you qualify as an interested person, you may still struggle to access your claim in the estate. 

Can an Interested Person Be Blocked from Challenging a Will or Be Disinherited by the Decedent?

In some cases, interested persons are met with challenges to their claim in an estate, especially if disinherited by the decedent in their will.

Here are some of the ways those situations can play out: 

  • Disinheritance. The estate owner has the right to disinherit interested persons in their will, and Florida courts typically respect the decedent’s wishes to do so if the revocation is explicitly stated in their will. However, Florida estate law offers certain protections to omitted spouses, allowing them to claim an elective share and other benefits, as well as to children born or adopted after the will’s execution. 
  • No-contest clauses. In the context of estate law, no-contest clauses are provisions that effectively disinherit beneficiaries if they contest the will. However, these clauses are not enforceable under Florida law, meaning that an interested person may be able to contest the will without being automatically disinherited. 
  • Challenges to the will. In Florida, only interested persons with an actual state in the outcome of an estate can challenge a will. That means that if someone with no real financial interest in the estate of a decedent attempts to challenge or become otherwise involved in it, they will likely be dismissed from proceedings. Additionally, interested persons must file their challenges within the statute of limitations; failure to do so may result in an inability to contest the will. 

Ultimately, an interested person may face various barriers to their claim. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be able to receive part of the estate, especially if they work with a qualified estate planning attorney. 

William C. Roof Law Group: Top Estate Planning Attorneys in Central Florida

Whether you are an interested person trying to secure your stake in an estate or you’re unsure of whether or not you qualify as an interested person, you can get the legal help you need from a dedicated estate planning professional. As leading estate planning attorneys in Orlando, Florida, the legal team at William C. Roof Law Group has the resources, expertise, and dedication to help you seek a favorable outcome. Ready to get started? Schedule an initial consultation today.

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