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Can I Represent Myself in Probate Court in Florida

In most other areas of the law you have a fundamental legal right to represent yourself in a court of law. However, that is not the case in Florida in regards to probate if you are appointed as a personal representative of an estate. The rules of probate speak specifically to the ability of a layperson to represent themselves in this type of legal proceeding. Florida, Fla. Prob. R. 5.030(a) states, “Every guardian and every personal representative, unless the personal representative remains the sole interested person, shall be represented by an attorney admitted to practice in Florida.” An “Interested person” means any person who may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the particular proceeding involved. Fla. Stat. 731.201(23).

Therefore, in light of the directives provided by Fla. Stat. 731.201(23) and Fla. Prob. R. 5.030(a), if there are multiple beneficiaries of an estate, the personal representative will not be allowed to represent themselves in a court of law. Additionally, even if you happen to be the sole beneficiary and personal representative, the courts will still not allow you to represent yourself if any creditors were to file claims in the probate proceeding. Since a creditor will fit within the definition of an interested party according to the rules, their appearance will negate your ability to proceed without an attorney.

As such, in the vast majority of probate cases (probably 99.9% of the time according to the current rule structure), a layperson will not be allowed to represent themselves as a personal representative in a probate proceeding. Perhaps the more important question though, is why you would want to. A competent probate attorney can give you the peace of mind and confidence to know that you are navigating unfamiliar waters with a professional whose experience will give you superior results. So even if you find you are able to represent yourself, you should seek the counsel of an experienced probate attorney to help you through the process.

Categories: Probate

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