What is a Caveat?
A caveat is a legal notice or warning that may be filed with a court or other government agency by an interested party in an estate proceeding. The purpose of a caveat is to alert the court to a potential issue or claim that the interested party wishes to raise or contest in relation to the estate.
Any person who has a potential claim or interest in an estate may file a caveat. For example, a creditor of the deceased may file a caveat to alert the court to their claim against the estate, or a family member or beneficiary may file a caveat to contest the terms of a will or the administration of the estate.
The court will consider the caveat and any related evidence or arguments presented by the interested party when determining the disposition of the estate, as outlined in Florida Statute 733.307. It is important to note that legal issues related to probate can be complex and are often dependent on specific circumstances and the interpretation of laws and regulations by courts.
Florida Statute 731.110 is the provision of Florida’s probate code that outlines the procedures for filing a caveat in the administration of an estate in Florida.
Pursuant to Fla. Stat. 731.110:
731.110 Caveat; proceedings.—
(1) Any interested person who is apprehensive that an estate, either testate or intestate, will be administered or that a will may be admitted to probate without that person’s knowledge may file a caveat with the court. The caveat of the interested person, other than a creditor, may be filed before or after the death of the person for whom the estate will be, or is being, administered. The caveat of a creditor may be filed only after the person’s death.
(2) If the caveator is a nonresident and is not represented by an attorney admitted to practice in this state who has signed the caveat, the caveator must designate some person residing in the county in which the caveat is filed as the agent of the caveator, upon whom service may be made; however, if the caveator is represented by an attorney admitted to practice in this state who has signed the caveat, it is not necessary to designate a resident agent.
(3) If a caveat has been filed by an interested person other than a creditor, the court may not admit a will of the decedent to probate or appoint a personal representative until formal notice of the petition for administration has been served on the caveator or the caveator’s designated agent and the caveator has had the opportunity to participate in proceedings on the petition, as provided by the Florida Probate Rules. This subsection does not require a caveator to be served with formal notice of its own petition for administration.
(4) A caveat filed before the death of the person for whom the estate will be administered expires 2 years after filing.
Under this statute, any interested person who is concerned that an estate will be administered without their knowledge or that a will may be admitted to probate without their knowledge may file a caveat with the court. This includes creditors, family members, and beneficiaries. A caveat may be filed by a nonresident of Florida, but the caveator must designate a resident of the county where the caveat is filed as their agent for service of process.
If a caveat has been filed by an interested party other than a creditor, the court may not admit a will to probate or appoint a personal representative until formal notice of the petition for administration has been served on the caveator or their designated agent and the caveator has had the opportunity to participate in the proceedings on the petition. A caveat filed before the death of the person for whom the estate will be administered expires two years after it is filed.
There are several reasons why someone might want to file a caveat in the administration of an estate in Florida. Some common reasons include:
To contest the validity of a will: A caveator may challenge the validity of a will on grounds such as lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, or fraud.
To contest the appointment of a personal representative: A caveator may contest the appointment of a personal representative on grounds such as lack of qualification, conflict of interest, or misconduct.
To protect the caveator’s interests in the estate: A caveator may file a caveat to protect their own interests in the estate, such as their right to receive a specific asset or their entitlement to a share of the estate.
To alert the court to a potential issue or claim: A caveator may file a caveat to alert the court to a potential issue or claim that they wish to raise or contest in relation to the estate. This could include a creditor’s claim against the estate or a challenge to the distribution of assets under the terms of a will.
If you have concerns or questions about your rights or interests in an estate in Florida, it is important to seek the advice of a qualified attorney who can provide specific guidance based on your individual situation and the laws of your jurisdiction. We specialize in Probate, Trusts and Estate Litigation throughout Florida.
If you are interested in learning more about the process of filing a caveat in the administration of an estate in Florida or anything related we encourage you to call us at 813-501-5071 for more information. We are here to help you navigate the legal process and ensure that your rights and interests are protected.