Due Process Required Even for Routine Probate Matters

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 matters.

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.

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Broward County (Ft. Lauderdale)

Natasha M. Dalton

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Matthew Weidner

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Dawn Bates-Buchanan

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Jon L. Martin

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