The term “interested person” comes up often in Florida probate. Interested persons have greater rights than others when it comes to Florida probate. Here are a few examples:
- Interested persons have a right to request information regarding the inventory and accounting of a Florida estate, information that is kept confidential from the general public.
- Only interested persons have standing (legally recognizable rights to be involved) in Florida probate matters. Interested persons can object to various pleadings or otherwise intervene in the Florida probate proceeding.
- Interested persons can object to the qualifications of the Florida personal representative, the validity of the will, or the venue/jurisdiction of the court handling the Florida probate.
Although the concept of an “interested person” is a characteristic of the laws of most states, not all states define the term. Florida Statutes 731.201(23) provides the following definition:
“Interested person” means any person who may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the particular proceeding involved.
The statute goes on to specifically include various categories of interested persons. For example, in any proceeding affecting the estate or the rights of a beneficiary in the estate, the personal representative of the estate is considered an interested person.
Trustees of some revocable trusts are also classified as interested parties in Florida probate proceedings. Specifically, Florida Statutes 731.201(23) and 733.707 provide that the trustee of the following type of trust will be deemed to be an interested person:
Any portion of a trust with respect to which a decedent who is the grantor has at the decedent’s death a right of revocation …, either alone or in conjunction with any other person.
One category is statutorily excluded from the definition of “interested person:” The term does not include a beneficiary who has received complete distribution. In other words, if a beneficiary has already received a complete distribution of his or her share of the Florida probate estate, that beneficiary is no longer considered to be an “interested person” for purposes of the Florida probate proceeding.
In spite of these specific categories, Florida law recognizes that the term necessarily involves some ambiguity. Florida Statutes 731.201(23) provides:
The meaning, as it relates to particular persons, may vary from time to time and must be determined according to the particular purpose of, and matter involved in, any proceedings.
This means that the categories listed in the statute are not exclusive. Other types of interested persons can pop up. For example, a creditor of an insolvent estate “may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the particular proceeding involved” and may be considered an interested person even though not specifically named in the statutory definition.