Probate and Privacy is an oxymoron. It is like trying to combine oil and water-they just don’t mix. Most people will tell you that protecting their Privacy is very important to them. If you value your privacy, you will take the necessary steps to avoid a Florida probate.
According to Florida Court & Comptrollers, most probate pleadings are open for public viewing. There are certain documents such as inventories and accountings that are only accessible to the personal representative, his or her attorney, and anyone who meets the definition of an “interested person” according to the Florida Probate Court. It really is not difficult for someone to show that he or she is an interested person and gain access to your entire probate file.
Steps to Access a Probate Record
In Florida, the Clerk of the Court is prohibited from placing an image or copy of a court file of a matter governed by the Florida Probate Rules on a publicly available Internet Web site for general public display (Florida Clerks).
However, anyone can file a written request to gain access to a probate file by submitting a Court Records Request Form to the clerk.
Even without submitting an official record request anyone can go to the clerk of the court’s website and get general information about your probate case. All they need is your name. Yes, just your name.
Basic information you can find by an online search
- Date the case was opened
- The name of the Personal Representative
- The name of the attorney
- If there is a Will being probated
- If the decedent (person who dies) had a Trust (it is extremely difficult to get a copy of someone’s Trust)
- If there are creditors of the estate
Some information available from the actual probate court pleadings
- The names, addresses, relationships of the beneficiaries or heirs and how much they have inherited
- The property the deceased owned (jewelry, bank accounts, real properties, etc.)
- The contact information for creditors
- Information on the deceased’s debts, including who they owed money to and how much…and so much more
As you can see from the information in this post, probate is definitely not private. How much of your personal and family information do you want the “world” to know about? There are ways to leave a legacy for your loved ones without going through a public court-supervised process. Go ahead and schedule a free consultation with my office. We are looking forward to serving you!
Reference: (n.d.). How Do I Access Probate Records? Florida Court Clerk & Comptroller. https://www.flclerks.com/page/HDI_Probate_Records