A few complications here... I am the only living child of my now dead mother. Mom died practically broke except for some high-end jewelry pieces that she had placed on consignment at a jewelry store a few months before her death. She had no known will and had never mentioned one either. She did have a safety deposit box but did not name a beneficiary. The only known assets were the jewelry she had from her wealthy years long ago. Unfortunately, the jewelry store would not release the items to me without orders from a Florida probate judge. after a few days of packing her personal effects up I returned to Texas where I also had my mother's body flown for burial. Exactly 1 year later the jewelry store was robbed and moms jewels were included in the stolen loot. I have not been compensated to this day and was recently advised that I have do in fact recourse. My mother died penniless with the exception of the jewelry and the contents of the Regions Bank safety deposit box. Do I still need to go through the probate process. its been a few years and I have been in and out of the country but the bank still has the safety deposit box contents. What are my options?
You will need to open a formal administration to be able to persue a claim.
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.
You need to open an estate and be appointed personal representative. You can then get a court order to drill into the safe deposit box. You also have the power to bring a lawsuit for the jewelry, but there are statutes of limitations in many cases. That means if you don't bring a lawsuit within a certain number of years, you are barred from suing. If the jewels were recovered by the police, you can have them returned to you as personal representative. You must have an attorney to file a formal or summary administration in Florida
Regarding opening the safe deposit box, under FL Stat. 655.935, you have the right to view the contents of the box without a court order to see if there is a will, trust or life insurance policy inside. You need to bring a copy of the death certificate, identification, and a copy of your birth certificate to prove you are her daughter. You can't take anything out at this point except the above-stated documents for the purpose of copying them, but viewing the contents will allow you to see if there is anything of value inside.
If you decide to move forward with probate, and your mother died more than two years ago, you can file a Petition for Summary Administration in Probate Court, which is the streamlined version of probate.
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