1. In Florida, certain portion of the probate file can be seen by the public. However, documents such as a death certificate, inventory of assets, accounting, anything that would contain a social security number, cannot be seen by the public. The attorney handling the case would file a "Notice of Confidentiality" with estate documents that contain financial information and social security numbers and the court clerk would block those documents or parts of those documents from public view.
2. If the probate was opened solely to retrieve tangible personal property, the personal representative is the only person who has authority to file a lawsuit or adversary pleading. Once a lawsuit or adversary pleading is filed, the "defendant" has 20 days to respond - or seek an extension to respond.
2. The Florida Supreme Court expects a probate case to be closed within a year of when it was opened. This can change if a Federal Estate Tax return is due or if there is a dispute or if the personal representative files a Petition to Extend Time for Filing a Petition for Discharge and Final Accounting and the Court grants the petition.
3. If there is a dispute, mediation may take place - - - but, normally, there is no mediation in probate. Mediation would take place in the lawsuit to recover the property or under the adversary portion of probate. Mediation generally takes place after certain discovery - written interrogatories (questions that must be answered under oath), requests to produce, depositions, etc has concluded. The mediator reviews the facts and the supporting information. The recommendation of a mediator is not binding on the parties.
If you are trying to retrieve tangible personal property, you will need an attorney. The property you are trying to retrieve should be valuable since it will be costly to pursue legal action. Be sure to get information from the attorney you consult about how much it may cost to pursue a claim. If the property you seek to retrieve is worth $10,000, it is likely that it could cost that much, if not more, to retrieve it. So, get all the facts up front before filing an action,
Attorney McMahon was very detailed in her answer so I'll be brief. You need to work with an attorney, its easier if the attorney is in or close to the county where the deceased lived. How long a probate will take depends on several things including the size of the estate, number of beneficiaries, number of creditors, where the assets are located, and many other issues. On average, an probate will take about a year to close. Probate is a public issue, however, a it does take effort on one's part to get details about a probate.
To address your last question, mediation is not a standard part of probate. If there is an issue its typically handled by a hearing in front of a judge. The judge may order mediation at his/her discretion.
This answer is provided for informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Florida Attorney practicing in areas of Estate Planning, Elder Law, Trusts, Probate, Guardianship, and Business Law. www.ferraezlucas.com The information provided is for educational purposes and not intended to provide legal advice or to create an attorney client relationship. Please contact me at email@example.com or call my office should you like to discuss your Florida legal matter further. Actual legal advice can only be provided after completing a comprehensive consultation in which all of the relevant facts are discussed and reviewed.