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How Do I Access Probate Records?

Access Probate Records

Most probate documents are public records, however, inventories and accountings filed in estates are confidential and may be viewed only by the personal representative, the personal representative’s attorney or an "interested party," as defined in the Florida probate laws. In addition:

  • Florida law prohibits the Clerk from placing an image or copy of a court file, record or paper relating to matters or cases governed by the Florida Probate Rules on a publicly available Internet Web site for general public display.
  • The cause of death section of all death and fetal death records and the paternity, marital status and medical information of all fetal death records of this state are confidential and are not open to public inspection. Death certificates may be recorded with the specified sections deleted.

Do I need representation?
The probate rules require an attorney to represent a personal representative in a formal estate. There are some types of small estates that don’t require an attorney, because the court directs the distribution of the assets, rather than the personal representative making the distribution. Estates that require a personal representative have complicated procedural requirements, which is another reason an attorney is required.

How long will it take my taxable estate to close?
Taxable estates cannot close until the IRS signs off on the Estate Tax Return 706, which has to be filed within the deadline set by the IRS. The probate rules set a two-year period to close taxable estates, but it often takes the IRS longer to finalize the estate tax return.

How do I know what I own if no will is left from my spouse?
Wills often do not include specific assets that are owned by someone at the date of death. The best way to determine if there are assets is to look through your spouse’s papers and files to determine if there are accounts or assets owned by your spouse at the time of death.
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