Probate and Estate

Title XLII of the Florida Statutes regulates trusts and estates. Chapters 731 through 735 are known as the Florida Probate Code. Probate is the court-supervised legal process in which a deceased person's (decedent) assets are identified and gathered to pay the decedent’s debts and the cost of the probate proceeding with the remainder to be distributed to his or her beneficiaries. 

Some of a decedent’s assets cannot be transferred to the intended beneficiaries without it going through the probate process. There are a number of exceptions, however, for items such as assets held in living trusts or jointly-owned property. Florida has two types of probate administration, formal administration and summary administration, as well as a non-court supervised administration proceeding called "Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration" that applies only in limited circumstances.

Probate and Estate Attorney in Pensacola, FL

Do you need legal assistance administering an estate or are contesting a will in the Florida Panhandle? Consider contacting The Law Office of James M. Burns as soon as possible.

James M. Burns is an experienced probate lawyer in Pensacola who represents clients in Perdido Key, Pace, Navarre, Milton, Fort Walton Beach, and many surrounding areas of Escambia County and Santa Rosa County.

Call (850) 457-6002 right now to have our attorney provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free, confidential consultation.


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Florida Probate and Estate Information Center


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Probate Definitions in Escambia County

Florida Statute § 731.201 establishes that the following definitions apply to the Florida Probate Code:

  • Authenticated — When referring to copies of documents or judicial proceedings required to be filed with the court under this code, means a certified copy or a copy authenticated according to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure;
  • Beneficiary — Heir at law in an intestate estate and devisee in a testate estate. The term “beneficiary” does not apply to an heir at law or a devisee after that person’s interest in the estate has been satisfied;
  • Child — Includes a person entitled to take as a child under this code by intestate succession from the parent whose relationship is involved, and excludes any person who is only a stepchild, a foster child, a grandchild, or a more remote descendant;
  • Claim — A liability of the decedent, whether arising in contract, tort, or otherwise, and funeral expense. The term does not include an expense of administration or estate, inheritance, succession, or other death taxes;
  • Collateral Heir — An heir who is related to the decedent through a common ancestor but who is not an ancestor or descendant of the decedent;
  • Curator — A person appointed by the court to take charge of the estate of a decedent until letters are issued;
  • Descendant — A person in any generational level down the applicable individual’s descending line and includes children, grandchildren, and more remote descendants. The term “descendant” is synonymous with the terms “lineal descendant” and “issue" but excludes collateral heirs;
  • Devise — When used as a noun, means a testamentary disposition of real or personal property and, when used as a verb, means to dispose of real or personal property by will or trust. The term includes “gift,” “give,” “bequeath,” “bequest,” and “legacy.” A devise is subject to charges for debts, expenses, and taxes as provided in this code, the will, or the trust;
  • Devisee — A person designated in a will or trust to receive a devise;
  • Distributee — A person who has received estate property from a personal representative or other fiduciary other than as a creditor or purchaser. A testamentary trustee is a distributee only to the extent of distributed assets or increments to them remaining in the trustee’s hands. A beneficiary of a testamentary trust to whom the trustee has distributed property received from a personal representative is a distributee. For purposes of this provision, “testamentary trustee” includes a trustee to whom assets are transferred by will, to the extent of the devised assets;
  • Domicile — A person’s usual place of dwelling and shall be synonymous with residence;
  • Estate — The property of a decedent that is the subject of administration;
  • Exempt Property — The property of a decedent’s estate which is described in Florida Statute § 732.402;
  • Foreign Personal Representative — A personal representative of another state or a foreign country;
  • Formal Notice — A form of notice that is described in and served by a method of service provided under rule 5.040(a) of the Florida Probate Rules;
  • Grantor — One who creates or adds to a trust and includes “settlor” or “trustor” and a testator who creates or adds to a trust;
  • Heirs or Heirs at Law — Those persons, including the surviving spouse, who are entitled under the statutes of intestate succession to the property of a decedent;
  • Incapacitated — A judicial determination that a person lacks the capacity to manage at least some of the person’s property or to meet at least some of the person’s essential health and safety requirements. A minor shall be treated as being incapacitated;
  • Informal Notice or Notice — A method of service for pleadings or papers as provided under rule 5.040(b) of the Florida Probate Rules;
  • Interested Person — Any person who may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the particular proceeding involved;
  • Letters — Authority granted by the court to the personal representative to act on behalf of the estate of the decedent and refers to what has been known as letters testamentary and letters of administration. All letters shall be designated “letters of administration”;
  • Minor — A person under 18 years of age whose disabilities have not been removed by marriage or otherwise;
  • Personal Representative — The fiduciary appointed by the court to administer the estate and refers to what has been known as an administrator, administrator cum testamento annexo, administrator de bonis non, ancillary administrator, ancillary executor, or executor;
  • Petition — A written request to the court for an order;
  • Power of Appointment — An authority, other than as an incident of the beneficial ownership of property, to designate recipients of beneficial interests in property;
  • Probate of Will — All steps necessary to establish the validity of a will and to admit a will to probate;
  • Protected Homestead — The property described in Constitution of the State of Florida Article X § 4(a)(1) on which at the death of the owner the exemption inures to the owner’s surviving spouse or heirs under Constitution of the State of Florida Article X § 4(b);
  • Residuary Devise — A devise of the assets of the estate which remain after the provision for any devise which is to be satisfied by reference to a specific property or type of property, fund, sum, or statutory amount. If the will contains no devise which is to be satisfied by reference to a specific property or type of property, fund, sum, or statutory amount, “residuary devise” or “residue” means a devise of all assets remaining after satisfying the obligations of the estate;
  • Trust — An express trust, private or charitable, with additions to it, wherever and however created. It also includes a trust created or determined by a judgment or decree under which the trust is to be administered in the manner of an express trust. “Trust” excludes other constructive trusts, and it excludes resulting trusts; conservatorships; custodial arrangements pursuant to the Florida Uniform Transfers to Minors Act; business trusts providing for certificates to be issued to beneficiaries; common trust funds; land trusts under Florida Statute § 689.071, except to the extent provided in Florida Statute §689.071(7); trusts created by the form of the account or by the deposit agreement at a financial institution; voting trusts; security arrangements; liquidation trusts; trusts for the primary purpose of paying debts, dividends, interest, salaries, wages, profits, pensions, or employee benefits of any kind; and any arrangement under which a person is nominee or escrowee for another;
  • Trustee — Includes an original, additional, surviving, or successor trustee, whether or not appointed or confirmed by court; and
  • Will — An instrument, including a codicil, executed by a person in the manner prescribed by this code, which disposes of the person’s property on or after his or her death and includes an instrument which merely appoints a personal representative or revokes or revises another will.

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Common Probate Issues in Pensacola, FL

The Law Office of James M. Burns assists people throughout the greater Escambia County area with several different types of probate cases. Our firm regularly handles such probate matters as:

  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Summary Administration
  • Formal Administration

Pensacola probate lawyer James M. Burns also helps people with related issued outside of probation, such as insurance agreements.


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Probate Resources in Florida

Probate Wills and Estates | Escambia County Clerk — On this section of the Escambia County Clerk's Office website, you can learn more about probate matters. Find answers to frequently asked questions and various probate forms. You can also access state, local, and judicial resources.

Escambia County Clerk of the Circuit Court

Family Law Division

190 W. Government St., Room 23012

Pensacola, FL 32502

(850) 595-4331

Florida Probate Code — View the full text of the Florida Probate Code. Chapter 731 covers general provisions, including the disposition of real property, assets of nondomiciliaries, waiver and consent by an interested person, and representation. On this website, you can also view Chapter 732 (intestate succession and wills), Chapter 733 (administration of estates), Chapter 734 (foreign personal representatives and ancillary administration), and Chapter 735 (small estates).


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Find a Probate Lawyer in Pensacola, FL

If you need help with a probate issue in the Florida Panhandle, it will be in your best interest to quickly retain legal counsel. The Law Office of James M. Burns assists residents of communities all over Santa Rosa County and Escambia County, including Fort Walton Beach, Navarre, Perdido Key, Milton, Pace, and several others.

Pensacola probate attorney James M. Burns understands how confusing the probate process can be for many people and helps guide individuals to the most favorable possible resolutions to their situations. You can have our lawyer review your case and help you understand all of your legal options as soon as you call (850) 457-6002 or submit an online contact form to schedule a free initial consultation.

This article was last updated on February 9, 2018.