What happens when heir is missing in probate?


According to Florida Statute 733.816, there is a specific procedure a personal representative must follow if a legal heir cannot be located, or the heir is unknown or refuses to accept the inherited property. In such cases, the court will order that the personal representative give the amount of funds intended for the unfound heir, after the liquidation of the specified property, to the clerk of court. The clerk will then attempt to give constructive notice to the heir by publication.

The manner in which this is done depends on the amount of the funds. If the inheritance is less than $500, the clerk will post notice at the door of the courthouse for 30 days. If the amount is $500 or more, notice will be published once a month in a newspaper of general circulation within the county for two months. The notice will contain the amount in question, the contact information of the personal representative and anything else required to put the heir on notice. If no legally entitled individual comes forward with six months of the first publication, the money goes to the state to use in its education fund.


Scott: Yes. I have a quick question in regards to my father's estate. My father passed away five years ago, and my brother who is part recipient of the estate, they have not located him. The executor of the estate has now come down with dementia, and her daughter apparently is taking over. Now, is that daughter allowed to take his half of the money?

Attorney Tom Olsen: No. When there is a missing heir, if that heir really cannot be found, they will appoint-- I think it's called administrator ad litem, usually an attorney, and that attorney's job will be to hold that money, manage that money, go out and look for that person, and hold on to it for, I think, it's 20 years. If they really cannot find the person, then they turn it over to the state of Florida.

Scott, it will not entitle her, but also, Scott, just because mom was the executor that doesn't make mom's daughter next in line, unless your dad's will happen to have mom's daughters next in line.

Scott: No. It did not.