Probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation
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Can An Estate Be Re-Opened After 60 Years?

By:  Jeffrey Skatoff, Esq.

Oftentimes, beneficiaries of an estate will want to reopen the estate after it is closed, sometimes decades later.  Oftentimes, the reason for reopening the estate concern title to real estate.  In the case of Williams v. Williams, 3D21-2013 (3rd DCA 2023), beneficiaries of an estate attempted to reopen the estate 60 years after the estate was administered and the personal representative discharged.

In denying the petition to reopen the estate, the Court explained as follows:

We agree with the trial court that, under the circumstances present here, no precedent exists to reopen an estate that was fully administered and discharged over 60 years ago. See Hannan v. Doyle, 337 So.3d 1258, 1258 (Fla. 3d DCA 2022) (citing Carraway v. Carraway, 883 So.2d 834, 835 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004) for the proposition that “Florida case law appears to only permit the reopening of an estate after the discharge of the personal representative where there were procedural irregularities or facts constituting fraud or bad faith”); but see, e.g., Egger v. Egger, 506 So.2d 1168, 1168-69 (Fla. 3d DCA 1987) (determining that the statute of limitations in section 95.22, Florida Statutes (1985) doesn’t bar
an action to quiet title initiated by heirs of the decedent). The record contains no allegation of procedural irregularities, fraud, or bad faith. Finding no error with the trial court’s determination, we affirm the dismissal.

The Court does say that the estate was “fully administered,” and perhaps that is part of the reason that the Court refused to allow the estate to be reopened.  Probate Rule 5.460, however, does allow estates to be reopened if an adequate reason can be demonstrated.  That rule provides as follows:

(a) Petition. If, after an estate is closed, additional property of the decedent is discovered or if further administration of the estate is required for any other reason, any interested person may file a petition for further administration of the estate. The petition shall be filed in the same probate file as the original administration.
(b) Contents. The petition shall state:
(1) the name, address, and interest of the petitioner in the estate;
(2) the reason for further administration of the estate;
(3) the description, approximate value, and location of any asset not included among the assets of the prior administration; and
(4) a statement of the relief sought.
(c) Order. The court shall enter such orders as appropriate. Unless required, the court need not revoke the order of discharge, reissue letters, or require bond.

The Court in Williams does not elaborate why Rule 5.460 does not apply, but perhaps after 60 years, the need to reopen the estate would need to be obvious and absolutely necessary, which perhaps was not able to be demonstrated.

Learn more about reopening Florida probate estates here.

Jeffrey Skatoff is a Florida probate attorney.  To have Mr. Skatoff review your case free of charge, please go to his website.

Probate attorney Jeffrey Skatoff handles probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation.

Jeffrey H. Skatoff, Esq.

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