In a typical Florida probate proceeding, the personal representative and the beneficiaries will often file standardized and routine petitions, such as petitions for exempt property, petitions for family allowance, and petitions to determine homestead. Florida law requires that due process be granted to even these routine probate matters. If everyone entitled to notice does not receive notice, and therefore is denied the opportunity to be heard, the Florida appellate courts will not hesitate to issue a reversal on due process grounds.
In Martini v. Estate of Conner, the daughter of the deceased filed a petition for exempt property. The probate court denied her motion without notice to her and without an opportunity to be heard on the petition. The appellate court reversed the probate court, reasoning as follows:
Mary Cathryn Martini appeals the probate court’s order denying her petition to determine property exempt from the Estate of Louise B. Conner, Ms. Martini’s mother. See § 732.402, Fla. Stat. (2011); Fla. Prob. R. 5.406. We have jurisdiction. Fla. R. App. P. 9.170(b)(13). Ms. Martini argues that the denial of her petition without notice and an opportunity to be heard violated her due process rights. See art. I, § 9, Fla. Const.; Ryan’s Furniture Exch., Inc. v. McNair, 120 Fla. 109, 162 So. 483, 487 (Fla. 1935); Fleming v. Demps, 918 So. 2d 982, 984-85 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005); Shappell v. Guardianship of Naybar, 876 So. 2d 690, 691 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004). William H. Hutchings, as personal representative of the Estate of Louise B. Conner, concurs. Therefore, we reverse and remand for reconsideration of the petition after notice and a hearing.
Due process in Florida probate, even for routine matters, is important. Rather than risk a reversal, make sure that everyone interested in the proceeding and entitled to notice is given notice and an opportunity to be heard.