Losing a loved one is never easy, but it can be even worse when someone goes missing and is never found. People sometimes go missing in natural disasters such as hurricanes. When their bodies are never recovered, the surviving family members might not know what to do to handle their estates. Fortunately, Florida law includes provisions allowing surviving family members to probate the estates of missing people. The Fort Lauderdale probate attorney at the Law Offices of Rhonda D. Zimmerman, Esq. can help surviving family members through the process of probating the estate of a missing person.
How Can a Missing Person’s Estate Be Probated in Florida?
Under §731.103(3), Fla. Stat. (2020), the first step in the process of probating a missing person’s estate is to have him or her declared dead. A person can be declared dead if he or she is missing from his or her last-known residence for five years when his or her absence cannot be explained after a diligent search. The search must be thorough to qualify. Once the five-year period ends, the missing person will be presumed dead.
In some situations, a missing person might be declared dead before the five years are up. This might occur when the person encountered danger that likely ended his or her life. For example, a person who was on a plane that crashed or who left home after leaving a suicide note behind might be declared dead. In those types of situations, the person might be presumed dead on the date of the crash or other dangerous event.
To get a certificate that a person is presumed dead, you must file a petition in the probate court in the county where the missing person resided. If he or she did not reside in Florida but owned real property in the state, the petition can be filed in the probate court of any county in Florida.
After the missing person is declared dead by the probate court, an order will be issued. A presumptive death certificate will then be filed by the Florida Department of Health under §382.012, Fla. Stat. (2020). Once the presumptive death certificate is filed, a probate case can be started in the court to manage the estate and distribute the assets.
Get Help from an Experienced Fort Lauderdale Probate Attorney
If your loved one has been missing for a long time or has gone missing after a disaster, you are likely devastated by your loss. Fort Lauderdale probate attorney Rhonda D. Zimmerman can help you initiate the probate process and guide you throughout the case. Call us today at (954) 567-1040 to schedule a consultation.