Yes, heirs have a right to see the will and to know everything about the assets and disbursals. Yes, some personal effects can be distributed before the "will closes" or the probate is closed.
If there is a will then it must be filed with the probate clerk. There are statutes requiring this, procedures to enforce it, and penalties if the will is not filed, if there is one.
As far as seeing a will that has been filed, go to the probate clerk's office in the courthouse and ask to see the file. Its a public record.
As for your complaints about the administration of the estate, that's what the judge is there for. You bring your complaints to the judge and ask for a hearing. Personal representatives are required by law to submit an inventory of the estate to the court within 60 days of openning the estate and to account for the assets of the estate (unless waived by the heirs in writing) before closing the estate.
Does it sound like you might need an attorney? Probably. It really depends on the size of the estate and wheither you can afford to hire one. Perhaps you could simply pay for a consultation to get advice on what you can and ought to do and whether or not the estate is being administered properly. See a lawyer familiar with probate.
The above has been offered for informational purposes and is not legal advice nor has there been any attorney-client relationship formed thereby.
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Florida probate laws include a lot of protections for the beneficiaries of a probate estate. If you were in fact a beneficiary under a will and there were assets that required probate, you probably would have received some kind of notification. When the estate is opened, beneficiaries are entitled to a "Notice of Administration" which describes some of the deadlines for certain steps to protect your rights as a beneficiary. An Inventory lists all of the assets that are subject to probate. A Final Accounting lists all of the assets of the estate, any income that was earned while the estate was opened, changes in the value of any estate assets, the expenses of the probate administration, and the disbursements to the estate beneficiaries.
Many assets are not subject to probate. Life insurance policies, for example usually don't require probate if a beneficiary was named. Although it has become popular to "avoid probate" by using assets with beneficiary designations, there is no formal process to let everyone know what is happening.
I'm not sure how the funds could be used without filing the will and starting the probate process. It is possible that someone was named as a beneficiary or joint owner on the bank accounts and life insurance and that person used the funds to pay the decedent's bills voluntarily.
There are way too many factors that could affect the answer to your questions. I would agree with the prior comment that it might be worth asking a local attorney for a counsultation so you can discuss as many of the facts as possible. That's the only way to get a good answer to your questions.
My comments are not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship, are not confidential, and are not intended to constitute legal advice. Proper legal advice can only be given by an attorney who agrees to represent you, who reviews the facts of your specific case, who does not have a conflict of interest preventing the representation, and who is licensed as an attorney in the state where the law applies.
In summary to above answers. You can get court order making it mandatory to file will.
Beneficiares are entitled to an accounting of probate assets.
Many assets are not probated because they are he jointly of have named beneficiares.
Yes they can. In addition:
1. Whomever is in possession of the Will when the person died must, by law, file it with the Clerk of Circuit Court in the county where the person lived. For instance, if the person died in Orange County, Florida, the Will must be filed with the Orange County Courthouse, Probate division (on the 3rd floor of the Courthouse). The Will must be filed within 10 days from the death of the person, and
2. If whomever has the Will is not willing to show it to beneficiaries or heirs and/or is unwilling to file it with the Court, anybody who has an interest in the estate (the deceased person's property) can go to Court to obtain a judge's order to force the person to disclose the Will and/or file it with the Court.
Alejandro R. Lopez, Esq.
Law Office of Alejandro R. Lopez, P.A.
4465 Edgewater Drive,
Orlando, Fla. 32804
Ph.: (407) 649-1404
Fax: (407) 649-9890