I answered a question from a prospective client recently about the inventory of the Florida probate estate. Specifically, the client asked whether the personal representative had a duty to file an inventory and what disclosure requirements apply under Florida law. I thought I’d share a beefed-up version of the answer here.
Florida law generally requires the personal representative to file an inventory of the assets of the estate, including their estimated fair market value at the time of the decedent’s death. Clients are sometimes concerned about this requirement. What if an unscrupulous creditor sees deep pockets and fraudulent inflates his or her claim against the estate? Or what if a thief combs the probate records to look for valuables that can be stolen?
Thankfully, Florida law provides for confidentiality of the personal representative’s inventory. Effective July 1, 2009, all estate inventories are confidential and not disclosed in public records. But the confidentiality is not absolute. The court clerk must disclose the inventory for inspection or copying to:
- The personal representative or his attorney;
- An interested person; or
- By court order upon a showing of good cause.
Under Florida Probate Rule 5.340(d), the personal representative must also serve copies of the inventory “on the Department of Revenue, the surviving spouse, each heir at law in an intestate estate, each residuary beneficiary in a testate estate, and any other interested person who may request it in writing.”
The personal representative must also notify each beneficiary that he or she has a right to request the inventory. If the beneficiary requests the inventory, the personal representative should provide it promptly. Florida Statutes 733.604(1)(a) provides:
Upon written request to the personal representative, a beneficiary shall be furnished a written explanation of how the inventory value for an asset was determined, or, if an appraisal was obtained, a copy of the appraisal, as follows:
(a)To a residuary beneficiary or heir in an intestate estate, regarding all inventoried assets.
(b)To any other beneficiary, regarding all assets distributed or proposed to be distributed to that beneficiary.
And interested parties can request information about how values are determined. For example, interested parties may want to know whether an appraiser was used and, if so, which appraiser was involved. The personal representative must furnish this information to interested parties upon request.
Practice Note: To best protect the inventory from inadvertent disclosure, the Florida probate attorney should file a Notice of Confidential Information within Court Filing along with the inventory. This puts the clerk on notice that the inventory should not be made available to the general public.