Jacksonville Probate Attorney: Missing Beneficiaries

Jacksonville Probate: How to Handle Missing Beneficiaries

Jacksonville probate attorneys often deal with a beneficiary that is alive, but no one knows this person’s address.  If a beneficiary goes missing or cannot be found, then there are a few options including using professional heir search companies.

The first place to start is the Florida Rules of Probate, which requires formal notice to be sent to a number of different parties affected by the probate of the estate.  The rule can be found under Florida Rule of Probate 5.040.  The rule states the formal notice can be sent to the following parties:

  1.  to the attorney representing an interested person;
  2. to an interested person who has filed a request for notice at the address given in the request for notice;
  3. to an incapacitated person or a person with a developmental disability to the person’s usual place of abode and to the person’s legal guardian, if any, at the guardian’s usual place of abode or regular place of business; or if there is no legal guardian, to the incapacitated person or person with a developmental disability at the person’s usual place of abode and on the person, if any, having care or custody of the incapacitated person or person with a developmental disability at the usual place of abode or regular place of business of such custodian;
  4. to a minor whose disabilities of nonage are not removed, by serving the persons designated to accept service of process on a minor under Chapter 48, Florida Statutes; or
    v) on any other individual to the individual’s usual place of abode or to the place where the individual regularly conducts business; or
  5. on a corporation or other business entity to its registered office in Florida or its principal business office in Florida or, if neither is known after reasonable inquiry, (A)to its last known address; or (B) as provided in the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure for service of process; or (C) as otherwise provided by Florida law for service of process.

If you can’t find a person to serve, the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure state there is an avenue for service via publication.  Most often this can be done in the back pages of a local newspaper with other legal notices.  Before publications can be used the estate must provide an affidavit of diligent inquiry.  The court wants to see that an effort was made to find the person.

The requirements of this effort needed are outlined in Florida Statute 49.031.  This statute states, “As a condition precedent to service by publication, a statement shall be filed in the action executed by the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s agent or attorney, setting forth substantially the matters hereafter required, which statement may be contained in a verified pleading, or in an affidavit or other sworn statement.”

Once the requirements for the affidavit are met, the estate may petition the court for the issuance of a Notice of Action to be published in a local newspaper in the jurisdiction upon which the case or claim is pending.   The Florida rules for probate provide an additional nuance of giving the Personal Representative the ability to appoint a Guardian Ad Litem for ascertainable individuals.

For more information about how to get through the probate process when a beneficiary cannot be found contact the Jacksonville probate attorneys at The Law Office of David M. Goldman PLLC today.

Contact Information