Handling a Missing Person’s Estate – How Can a Probate Attorney in Miami Help?

Losing a loved one is always an emotional upheaval. However, this often pales in insignificance when compared with the distress facing someone whose loved one goes missing. Never being able to recover a body can make it difficult to mourn the loss. Not having a body to cremate or bury can leave a family facing uncertainty. Worrying about what happened to their parent, child or sibling can make it difficult for families to move on.

However, the law in Florida has rules that enable family members to complete their mourning process. The family can declare the person who is missing dead and, then, move on. However, one issue the family must deal with is the distribution of the missing person’s estate.

Can a probate attorney in Miami probate the estate of a missing person? Here, we take a look at the course of action that a family must take.

A Declaration of Fictitious Death

It is possible for a probate attorney to probate a missing person’s estate. However, first, someone needs to declare him or her fictitiously dead. Florida statute 732.103(3) outlines this. Courts can presume someone dead if the person has been absent from his or her domicile for five years. This assumes his or her absence cannot be satisfactorily explained after an inquiry and diligent search.

Once the five-year continuous period has elapsed, the court presumes the person’s death has occurred. Presumed deaths may occur in several cases. For example, if someone has drowned and his or her body was never found. Or, perhaps, someone left his or her house and never returned.

Sometimes, there could be a declaration of death for a missing person before the five years have elapsed. This may take place in a case where the person found himself or herself in a life-threatening situation. Some possible circumstances include a plane crash or if the person who is missing left home in a suicidal state. In cases like this, the court presumes the missing person dead from the date on which the dangerous circumstance occurred.

How Is A Death Certificate Obtained?

A family must file a petition to obtain a presumptive death certificate for the missing person. The family must file the petition with the county court where the person maintained his or her home. It can also file with any county if the person didn’t live in Florida when he or she went missing. The court must then establish the missing person’s death. It achieves this via circumstantial or direct evidence. Evidentiary hearings will consider this evidence on a case-by-case basis.

Once the relevant county probate court has declared the missing person dead, it issues an order. The Florida Department of Health will then file a presumptive death certificate. This allows the probate proceeding to begin. Anyone with an interest in the missing person’s estate can petition for the right to administer it. However, there is no appointment of personal representatives until the court determines the missing person is dead.

Seeking Help from A Probate Lawyer in Miami

Everyone hopes they will never find themselves in a situation where a loved one goes missing. However, in the event that such a tragedy takes place, it is vital to seek help from a Miami probate attorney. Although it is a difficult and distressing time, a qualified probate attorney will be able to offer expert advice. He or she will also be able to put the process in place to begin administering the missing person’s estate. As a result, the family will eventually be able to move on and mourn their lost loved one.

%d bloggers like this: