A common question asked by someone having concerns about fraud or other wrongdoing in conjunction with the procurement or execution of their loved one’s or friend’s will is “who can contest a will or trust in Florida?” In legal circles, the question of whether any given individual (or entity) has the legal ability or authority to challenge a will or trust is often referred to as determining whether that person or entity has “standing.” Usually, the notion of standing considers whether a person or entity has a sufficient interest at stake in the litigation so as to make the case a true controversy between the parties.
A With regard to who has standing to contest a will, the general rule is that those with standing include beneficiaries and legal heirs at law. It should be noted that others may have standing, and that certain beneficiaries or legal heirs at law might be barred from contesting the will. The Florida legislature identifies the requirements for standing in these actions in F.S. 733.109(1), which says that any “interested person” unless barred under F.S. 733.212 or F.S. 733.2123 may commence a proceeding to revoke the probate (or contest a will).
B F.S. 731.201(23) “Interested person” means any person who may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the particular proceeding involved. In any proceeding affecting the estate or the rights of a beneficiary in the estate, the personal representative of the estate shall be deemed to be an interested person. In any proceeding affecting the expenses of the administration and obligations of a decedent’s estate, or any claims described in s. 733.702(1), the trustee of a trust described in s. 733.707(3) is an interested person in the administration of the grantor’s estate. The term does not include a beneficiary who has received complete distribution. 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.
Under F.S. 733.212(3), any interested person who has been served with a copy of the notice of administration is barred from objecting or contesting the administration of that particular will if they do not file an objection within 3 months of being served.
F.S. 733.2123 provides another potential category of who may potentially be barred from contesting a will except in the proceedings before the issuance of letters of administration for those who are served with the formal notice of the petition for administration (as well as those who waived notice).