CLERK OF COURT & COMPTROLLER

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FLORIDA

Probate, Guardianship, and Trust

The Probate, Guardianship, and Trust Department maintains the files on probate estates, wills, trusts and guardianships for both minors and incapacitated persons. They monitor, file, and store all pending case files and all wills that have been deposited with the Probate Department.

Probate, Guardianship, and Trust FAQs

What are my options for obtaining customer service from the Clerk's office?

Mail: P.O. Box 3360, Tampa, FL 33601-3360
Email: Contact us
Phone: (813) 276-8100, ext. 4360
In person: Downtown Tampa, Plant City, Brandon, Ruskin (Southshore).  See wait times. Click here to get in line now.

How do I view a Probate, Guardianship, or Trust file?

Electronic viewing of many court records, indexes and dockets as well as non-confidential document images is currently available on our Hillsborough Online Viewing of Electronic Records (HOVER) site, as authorized by the Florida Supreme Court. Pursuant to Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, access to all electronic and other court records shall be governed by the Standards for Access to Electronic Court Records and Access Security Matrix.
If you are authorized under Florida Rules of Judicial Administration to view a court file but are unable to view it online and/or need a copy, you may view or pick up a copy of the file at our Tampa Edgecomb or Plant City locations. To allow adequate time for redaction processing, it may take four business days for your file to be available for on-site viewing and/or pick-up.

General Information

Probate is necessary whenever a deceased person leaves titled assets in their name alone. A party then files a petition for probate which allows distribution of the decedent's assets. Guardianships are filed for both minors and incapacitated persons. Most probate cases and all Guardianship matters in the State of Florida require an attorney per Florida Probate Rule 5.030 . An individual, through their attorney, files for a guardian to be appointed for an adult person when they believe that person is not mentally capable of taking care of himself/herself. When a guardianship petition is filed on an adult, an accompanying petition to determine incapacity is filed in the Mental Health Department. The Mental Health Department will appoint a committee to evaluate the person and file their report with the court. The exception to this would be a guardian advocate petition. These petitions are for persons who are developmentally disabled. With these petitions, there is no requirement for the ward to be examined by a committee. Therefore, there will be no accompanying Mental Health file. Guardians can be appointed as guardian of the person only, property only or person and property.

Guardianships are also filed for minors when the minor child has inherited money or property in excess of $15,000.00 from a deceased relative, or received money from a settlement in excess of $15,000.00. In this case a guardian of the property is all that is needed if the minor child's parents are living. If a minor child's parents are deceased or unable to be appointed guardian, he/she may need a guardian of the person and property.

Disposition of Personal Property without Administration may be filed without the assistance of an attorney and are handled by the Clerks in the Probate Department. These are filed when the amount of the estate does not exceed the amount of the preferred funeral expenses and the expenses of the last sixty days of the last illness. The Clerk assists the public and court by processing the forms, verifying the assets of the decedent and preparing the order allowing for distribution.

Probate also handles Petitions to Appoint a Successor Trustee. This is a court appointed individual who is responsible for managing another's property. If there is a request for a new trustee, probate screens the request to ensure that all trust beneficiaries have agreed to the new trustee. As in all probate proceedings a hearing MAY be necessary since all probate, guardianship and trust cases are presented to the court for consideration of all orders.

What services are provided by the Probate, Guardianship and Trust Department?

  • Assist attorneys. 
  • Assist the general public and other governmental agencies in researching records spanning the years of 1834 to present time through the use of computer, microfiche and microfilm.  
  • Provide information to the attorneys, general public, and other agencies on general court procedures.
  • Prepare exemplified and certified copies of various instruments upon request. 
  •  Furnish information on case progress. 
  • Notify Caveators when personal representative is appointed and the Letters of Administration are issued so the creditor may file a Statement of Claim against the estate of the decedent.
  • Notify Trustees when an estate is filed and send copy of the Notice of Trust when Letters of Administration are issued. 
  • Administer Oaths of Witness to Wills and Codicils. 
  • Copy and certify various legal documents from files and film upon request.

What assistance is provided to attorneys?

  • File various proceedings related to Probate, Guardianship and Trust such as: Formal Administration, Summary Administration, Notice of Trust, V.A. Guardianship, Guardianship of Person, Guardianship of Property, Guardianship of Person and Property, Voluntary Guardianship, and Trust.
  • Screen the court files and documents and pleadings to determine that all necessary procedural steps have been taken prior to presentation to the Court for hearings and execution of orders. 
  • Determine if hearings are required.
  •  Audit Guardianship case accountings making sure ward's funds are being handled in compliance with guardianship statutes.
  • Monitor cases in which attorney's have not met procedural due dates. These cases are brought to the attention of the Court so hearings can be scheduled for Orders to Show Cause.
  •  Prepare certified and conformed copies, if applicable, of recently signed Court orders.
  •  Issue Subpoenas and process Formal Notices by Publication.
  •  Process Notice of Appeals. 

What petitions are filed in Probate, Guardianship and Trust Department?

Formal Administration -Florida Statute 731, 732, 733

Formal Administrations are used when it is necessary to appoint a personal representative to act on behalf of the estate because the assets exceed the monetary limits for other types of administration (see Florida Statute 735) or other special circumstances. The authority is given to the personal representative by the Court at the time of the appointment and when Letters of Administration are issued to the representative so that he/she may complete the administration of the estate.

Summary Administration -Florida Statute 735

Summary Administration may be filed when the value of the entire estate does not exceed $75,000.00 or when the decedent has been dead for more than two (2) years. A petition for summary administration may be filed by any beneficiary, heir at law, or person nominated as personal representative in the decedent's will.

Petition to Admit Foreign Will -Florida Statute 734 

The purpose of this petition is to transfer title of real property in this state of a nonresident by means of filing an authenticated copy of the foreign will, the petition for probate, and the order admitting will to probate. This petition may only be filed if the decedent has been dead for more than two (2) years. 

Ancillary Administration -Florida Statute 734 

Ancillary Administrations are used when it is necessary to appoint a personal representative to act on behalf of the estate when the decedent is a nonresident because his/her assets are titled in their name alone. The petition must be accompanied by authenticated copies of the probate proceedings from the state the decedent was a resident of or if no estate was required an authenticated copy of the will, or if no will, then the non-resident petition must state that there are no proceedings in another state or country. The authority is given to the personal representative by the Court at the time of the appointment and when Letters of Administration are issued to the representative so that he/she may complete the administration of the estate.

 Caveat -Florida Statute 731

A caveat may be filed with the Clerk by a creditor or an interested person to prevent either probate of a will or administration of an estate without notice. 

 Conservatorship -Florida Statute 747

Conservatorships are used when a resident of this state is an "absentee" (missing due to being a member of the Armed Forces, reported as missing in action, disappears under circumstances indicating they may have died, or amnesia, etc.) A petition may be filed to appoint a Conservator to administer his/her estate until they are found or declared dead. 

Curatorship -Florida Statute 733 

Curatorship’s are used when the Court needs to appoint a Curator and issue Letters of Curatorship to take charge of the estate of a decedent until Letters of Administration are granted.

Notice of Trust -Florida Statute 737 

Notice of Trust are to be filed with the Clerk upon the death of a settlor of a trust. The notice of trust must contain the settlor's date of death, the name of the settlor, the title of the trust, if any, the date of the trust, and the name and address of the trustee.

Trust -Florida Statute 737 

Trust cases in the Probate Department are usually opened to appoint a Successor Trustee on an existing Trust or to dissolve an existing Trust. 

 Guardianships -Florida Statute 744

Guardianships are filed for both minors and incapacitated persons. An individual, through their attorney, files for a guardian to be appointed for an adult person when they believe that person is not mentally capable of taking care of himself/herself. When a guardianship petition is filed on an adult, an accompanying petition to determine incapacity is filed in the Mental Health Department. The Mental Health Department will appoint a committee to evaluate the person and make their report with the court. The exception to this would be a guardian advocate petition. These petitions are for persons who are developmentally disabled. With these petitions, there is no requirement for the ward to be examined by a committee. Therefore, there will be no accompanying Mental Health file. Guardians can be appointed as guardian of the person only, property only or person and property.

Guardianships are also filed for minors when the minor child has inherited money or property in excess of $15,000.00 from a deceased relative, or received money from a settlement in excess of $15,000.00. In this case a guardian of the property is all that is needed if the minor child's parents are living. If a minor child's parents are deceased or unable to be appointed guardian, he/she may need a guardian of the person and property.

Voluntary Guardianships are filed when an adult person wants another person to handle their property.

Guardianships may also be filed for individuals who are entitled to receive benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and who are governed by the Veterans Administration Guardianship Statutes Part VIII (Veterans Guardianship Florida Statute 744.602). The Veterans Administration files their own certificate of Incapacity which eliminates the need to declare the ward incapacitated through the Mental Health Department. ALL GUARDIANSHIP CASES ARE MONITORED BY THE COURT.

Where/How do I file a will?

Production of Wills -Florida Statute 732.901 

The will of the decedent must be deposited by the custodian with the Clerk's Office in the county where the decedent resided within ten days after receiving information of the death of the maker of the will. The custodian must provide the decedent's date of death or social security number to the Clerk when depositing the will. There is no fee to deposit the will with the Clerk's Office. An Acknowledgement of Venue form must accompany any will filed with the Hillsborough County Clerk’s Office.
 

Can a Will be deposited with the Court for safekeeping if the testator (will maker) is still alive?

No.

What does "Probating a Will" mean?

It means taking all legal steps necessary to ensure a Will is valid and to admit the Will to probate.

What does "Estate" mean?

It relates to all property of a deceased person that is the subject of a probate action.

What does "Probating an Estate" mean?

This is a legal process provided for by Florida law which determines the value of a deceased person’s property and its distribution to heirs.

Where do probate proceedings take place?

Proceedings are held in the Circuit Court of the county where the deceased was domiciled or owned property.

Why is Probate necessary?

To collect and determine the estate’s assets and to protect the assets of the estate. To provide a means of converting assets to cash to distribute to beneficiaries, or to pay creditors/taxes. To legally transfer ownership of real property. To determine who is entitled to share in the estate and to distribute the property to the proper parties.

What happens if a person dies, and has left no will?

The property will be distributed in accordance with Florida law.

What are the definitions of Common Terms Used in Probate?

Absentee means any person serving in or with the Armed Forces of the United States, in or with the Red Cross, in or with the Merchant Marine or otherwise, during any period of time when a state of hostilities exists between the United States and any other power and for 1 year thereafter, who has been reported or listed as missing in action, interned in a neutral country, beleaguered, besieged or captured by the enemy, shall be an "absentee" within the meaning of this law; and any resident of this state, or any person owning property herein, who disappears under circumstances indicating that he/she may have died, either naturally, accidentally or at the hand of another, or may have disappeared as the result of mental derangement, amnesia or other mental cause, shall also be an "absentee" within the meaning of this law.
Authenticated, when referring to copies of documents or judicial proceeding required to be filed with the court under this code, shall mean a certified copy or a copy authenticated according to 28 U.S.C.s. 1733 or s. 1741 as defined in Florida Statute 731.201
Clerk means the clerk or deputy clerk of the court.
Conservator means court-appointed custodian of property belonging to a person as defined as "absentee" by Florida Statute 747.
Court means the circuit court.
Curator means a person appointed by the court to take charge of the estate of a decedent until letters are issued.
Domicile shall be a person's usual place of dwelling and shall be synonymous with "residence".
Estate means property of a decedent or ward that is subject to administration.
Guardian means a person who has been appointed by the court to act on behalf of a ward's person or property, or both. 
Incapacitated person means a person who has been judicially determined to lack the capacity to manage at least some of the property or to meet at least some of the essential health and safety requirements of such person. 
Minor means a person under 18 years of age whose disabilities have not been removed by marriage or otherwise. 
Next of Kin means those persons who would be heirs at law of the ward or alleged incapacitated person if such person were deceased and includes the lineal descendants of such ward or alleged incapacitated person.
Parent excludes any person who is only a stepparent, foster parent, or grandparent.
Personal Representative means the fiduciary appointed by the court to administer the estate and refers to what has been known as an administrator. 
Petition means a written request to the court for an order. 
Probate of will means all steps necessary to establish the validity of a will and to admit a will to probate. 
Property means both real and personal property or any interest in it and anything that may be the subject of ownership.
Totally incapacitated means incapable of exercising any of the rights enumerated in Florida Statute 744.3215(2) and (3).  
Trustee includes an original, additional, surviving, or successor trustee, whether or not appointed or confirmed by court. 
Ward means a person for whom a guardian has been appointed.
Will means an instrument, including a codicil, executed by a person in the manner prescribed by this code, which disposes of his/her property on or after his/her death and includes an instrument which merely appoints a personal representative or revokes or revises another will.

What are the fees and fines associated with this service?

See Probate, Guardianship, and Trust Fees for more information.