In a Florida probate cases, there will be times when interested persons will need to be served with formal notice in order to proceed with the probate administration. If you are a personal representative and have an attorney representing you, your attorney will take care of these items. It is important to know what method of service is required for formal notice to be properly given to interested persons. Please note that fulfilling all the requirements of notice is vital to the efficient administration of a Florida probate case, so consulting or hiring an attorney is always a great decision.
Formal notice in Florida probate cases is governed by Florida Probate Rule 5.040(a)(3)(A). Under Florida Probate Rule 5.040(a)(3)(A), formal notice is served by “sending a copy by any commercial delivery service requiring a signed receipt or by any form of mail requiring a signed receipt.” Although the rules state that any commercial delivery service can be used, typically attorneys in Florida will use the United States Postal Service Certified Mail with return receipt service. This provides tracking information and will require the person receiving the letter to sign for it. A signed return receipt is likely to satisfy the requirements for formal notice in a Florida probate case.
Where should formal notice be mailed? This is also covered under Florida Probate Rule 5.040. If the interested person has an attorney, then the formal notice must be sent to the attorney representing the interested person. This is usually clear because the attorney will have filed a notice of appearance in the Florida probate case. If an interested person is not represented by an attorney, but has filed a request for notice in the Florida probate case, then the formal notice must be sent to the address indicated on the request for notice. If the interested person has not participated in the probate case at all, then formal notice must be sent to the address that is correct for service of process as set out in the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and under Chapter 48, Florida Statutes.
Once the formal notice is delivered to the interested person, a proof of service must be filed in the Florida probate case to show the court and other interested persons that the notice was provided. Under Florida Probate Code Rule 5.040(a)(4), proof of service for formal notice “shall be by verified statement of the person giving the notice; and there shall be attached to the verified statement the signed receipt or other evidence satisfactory to the court that delivery was made to the addressee or the addressee’s agent.” The proof of service of formal notice is a document that is filed with the court that includes all of the parties that formal notice was sent, the documents that were sent via formal notice, and the signed return receipts showing that the recipients of formal notice received it. This will show the court that formal notice was delivered and will give the start date for the time limit of any objections to the documents to be filed in the case.