The Clerk of the Circuit Court is an Elected Constitutional
Officer & Independent Custodian of the Court Record

Probate Court Records


 

Probate Court Records

The Probate department handles court records of estate cases, guardianships of minors and incapacitated persons, Baker Act cases involving mental health disorders and Marchman Act cases involving drug and alcohol abuse; and accepts deposit wills for filing.

Helpful Information:

Florida Probate Rule 5.030 requires an attorney for many Probate and Guardianship cases. Even those Probate matters that do not require an attorney, may be quite complicated for a pro se litigant. Unfortunately, our Self Help Center is not able to assist with Probate matters. However, there are low and no-cost legal assistance options:


Probate Court Records - Locations

Clearwater Courthouse
315 Court Street, Room 106
Clearwater, FL 33756
Phone: (727) 464-3321

North County Branch
29582 U.S. 19 North
Clearwater, FL 33761
Phone: (727) 464-8700

St. Petersburg Branch
545 First Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Phone: (727) 464-7000

Probate Of Estates

Probate is a legal process through which the assets of a deceased person are properly distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries under a will, or if there is no will, according to Florida law. The Court oversees the estate to make sure debts are paid and proper distribution is made.

Last Will and Testament

A will is a document executed by a person which disposes of his/her property after his/her death. It generally names a personal representative to administer the estate.

When to file a Will:

The custodian of the original Last Will and Testament of a deceased person must deposit the will with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county where the decedent resided, within ten (10) days after receiving information that the person is deceased.

The custodian must supply the person's date of death or the last four digits of the person’s social security number to the Clerk upon deposit of the will.

You do not need an attorney to file the will with the Clerk of the Circuit Court. However, you may want to consult with an attorney before filing the will, so that he or she may determine whether Probate proceedings will be necessary.

If the deceased person did not leave a Will:

If there is no will, and there are assets to be probated, the estate of the deceased person must be distributed in accordance with Florida Probate law.

If there is a will filed but no personal representative has been named:

It may be necessary for an attorney to petition the Court on behalf of heirs or beneficiaries, or other interested parties, to appoint a personal representative to administer the estate.

Types of Probate Proceedings

There are 3 types of estate proceedings. You may wish to seek legal advice before deciding which type of proceeding is appropriate.

1. Formal Administration:

May be filed when there are assets exceeding $75,000, and/or when it is necessary to appoint a representative to act on behalf of the estate. At the time of appointment, Letters of Administration are issued to the personal representative by the Court giving him or her the authority to complete the administration of the estate. The Court oversees the administration of the estate to ensure the decedent’s debts are paid and that correct distribution to the heirs and/or beneficiaries.

Formal administration proceedings are initiated by filing a petition requesting the appointment of a personal representative. The attorney for the personal representative prepares and files the petition and other required documents. The appointed personal representative is then responsible for the estate, paying all debts of the decedent and distributing the balance of the estate to the rightful beneficiaries.

The appointed personal representative may be required to file a bond. Please refer to the Estate Bond Schedule section.

2. Summary Administration:

May be filed when the value of the entire estate subject to administration does not exceed $75,000.
(Summary Administration does not require the appointment of a personal representative).

A Petition for Summary Administration can be filed by any beneficiary or nominated personal representative in the decedent’s will, or by an attorney representing that petitioner(s). If the petitioner chooses to proceed without an attorney, he may research the requirements and find necessary forms for filing a Summary Administration at the Law Library

3. Disposition of Personal Property Without Administration:

Florida Statute 735.301 allows for an informal application to the court for transfer of assets when the decedent has only left personal property (no real estate can be transferred through this process). If you are a surviving spouse, or if no spouse, the surviving child of the decedent; or you paid the funeral expenses for the decedent, you may be eligible for this process. This procedure may be accomplished with the filing of an informal petition. Disposition Packets (which include a checklist, instructions and forms) are available from the Clerk of the Circuit Court in Probate Court Records and here. The Disposition Packet will help you determine if you are eligible for such a process – which is based on the nature of the assets and your relationship to the decedent-- and if so, provide the forms needed and detail other documents you may need to submit to the court.

After all the required documents have been filed, the court will review what you have provided and generate an order. If everything meets the statutory guidelines, the order will state that the asset(s) now belong to you. The prepaid certified copy of the original order will be mailed to you for submission to the asset holder. Agencies, such as the Dept. of Motor Vehicles and banks, require a certified copy of this order to release assets.

There is a fee for this process. Before you begin, you may want to inquire with the holder of the asset (for example, if the asset is a bank account, contact the bank) to see what may be required for transfer. Depending on the asset and your relationship to the decedent, you may only need a death certificate and certified copy of the will.

Refer to the current Schedule of Service Charges, available in any Clerk's office or online, for the current filing fee.

Viewing Wills or other Probate documents online

At this time, there is no internet access available to the public for viewing imaged documents unless you are a registered user. To become a registered user, click here.

Images of probate court documents are also available for viewing at any of the Clerk’s locations on the public view terminals. Our staff will be happy to demonstrate if you should need assistance.

You may also order, online or by mail, copies of any document not sealed by Florida Statute, Probate Rule, Administrative Order or Court Order. The copies will be mailed to you upon receipt of the service fee of $1.00 per page. Please include a self-addressed, postage paid envelope with your payment, or to pay by credit card, use our online copy request service.

Estate Bond Schedule

Florida law gives the Court full latitude and discretion to set the estate bonds and delineates in Section 733.403(1) many factors that must be considered when setting these bonds. The following chart is prepared as an aid for the Court in setting bonds based upon an estate's gross value and other factors of that statute.

Estate Gross Value Bond
$ 0 - 75,000* $ 18,000
$ 75,001 - 100,000 $ 25,000
$ 100,001 - 175,000 $ 35,000
$ 175,001 - 250,000 $ 50,000
$250,001 - 500,000           $ 75,000
$500,001 - unlimited $ 100,000 minimum**

*Every wrongful death estate will have a minimum bond of $18,000.
**Do multipliers of $100,000 for each $500,000 of estate (i.e. $1,100,000 estate calls for bond of $225,000).

Guardianship

A Guardianship is a legal arrangement under which a person (the guardian) has the legal right and duty to care for another (the ward) and his or her property. A guardian must be represented by an attorney.

REPORT FRAUD OR WASTE FOR CASES INVOLVING GUARDIANSHIP CASES

Guardianship Types

A guardianship is established when a person is unable to legally act on his/her own behalf. This may be due to *minority, (he or she is not of age), or due to mental and/or physical *incapacity. A competent adult may also petition the court to appoint a *voluntary guardian for himself or herself. A developmentally disabled person may be eligible for a *Guardian Advocate to be appointed.

  • *Guardian Advocate: A developmentally disabled person may be eligible for a less restrictive type of guardianship, known as a guardian advocate. For more information about this, please click here.

A developmentally disabled person may be eligible for a *guardian advocate to be appointed.

*Minority: A guardianship must be established for the property of a minor child when an amount over $15,000 is to be paid to the minor. This may occur through an inheritance or through a settlement of a legal action. Guardianship of the person of a minor child may need to be established if both natural parents are deceased, incapacitated or unavailable. Guardianship is not the same as custody. For information on custody of a minor, please see Family Law Rules and Forms.

*Incapacity: A guardianship for an alleged incapacitated person can be initiated by filing a “Petition to Determine Capacity” and a “Petition to Appoint Guardian” with the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Probate Court Records department. (The proposed guardian must be represented by an attorney).

The alleged incapacitated person and next of kin will be served with a notice and a copy of the court order appointing an examining committee and setting a hearing. An attorney will be appointed to represent the alleged incapacitated at the hearing. Each member of the examining committee submits his/her report to the court after examining the alleged incapacitated person. At the hearing, the court will make a determination regarding the capacity of the alleged, and if necessary, appoint a guardian.

*Voluntary: A person may voluntarily petition the court for appointment of a guardian for his/her property when, though mentally competent, he or she is incapable of the care, custody, and management of his estate by reason of age or physical infirmity. A certificate of a licensed physician is required, stating that he has examined the person and that the person is competent to understand the nature of the guardianship and his delegation of authority.

Guardian Qualifications

A person 18 years of age or older who has an interest in the protection of the personal or property rights of the incapacitated person may qualify to serve as a court appointed guardian. A completed Application for Appointment of Guardian form must be submitted by the proposed guardian at the time a guardianship case is opened. The Court will review the application to ensure the guardian will best serve the needs of the ward.

Fingerprint and Background Check requirement for Guardians:

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) no longer accepts or processes hard copy guardian applicant fingerprint cards. Fingerprints are to be submitted electronically via a live scan device.

Locations providing this service can be found at: www.identogo.com/services/live-scan-fingerprinting. Select Florida for the state. Scroll down to "Enrollment Services" and click on "Digital Fingerprinting." Then click on "Schedule a New Appointment."

The applicant will need to select an Agency:

Non-Professional/Family guardian applicants should select "All Other."
Professional guardian applicants should select "Professional Guardians."

The applicant will need the Originating Agency Identification Number (ORI) in order to schedule an appointment.

Pinellas ORI # for Non-Professional/Family guardian applicants: FL052104Z
Pinellas ORI # for Professional guardian applicants: FL052103Z

The applicant should arrive at their appointment with any necessary paperwork and their photo ID. Please note: a photo ID is required before any applicant can be fingerprinted (acceptable forms of photo ID are either state or federally issued, i.e. driver’s license, state ID, passport, military ID, or alien registration card with picture).

Once the applicant has been fingerprinted, the fingerprint technician will transmit the fingerprint records electronically to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The fingerprint technician also issues a signed receipt for the fingerprinting service to the applicant. The applicant needs to keep this receipt for future reference.

FDLE processes the background check for the State of Florida. Florida Department of Law Enforcement forwards the fingerprint record to the FBI for federal background check processing. When the background check(s) is completed, the results are returned to the Clerk’s office.

Professional guardians must also submit a clerk’s fee of $7.50 per Florida Statute 744.3135 (1) annually, due by January 31st each year.

Initial fees required for credit and criminal background investigation checks:

Pinellas County Administrative Order No. 2009-36 PA/PI-CIR requires an initial investigative fee:

All guardians: $27.50

Guardian Responsibilities

  • A guardian of the property is required to file an Initial Inventory of the ward’s assets within 60 days of his appointment. Subsequently, an annual accounting of the assets will be required.

  • A guardian of the person is required to file an Initial Plan for the care of the ward within 60 days of his appointment. Subsequently, an annual plan is required to provide information to the court about the health and physical well being of the ward.

Guardianship Report forms required:

Pinellas County Administrative Order No. 2009-36 PA/PI-CIR mandates the use of specific forms for the filing of these required reports. The forms and a copy of the Administrative Order are available at http://www.jud6.org.

Audit of Guardianship reports:

The law assigns the responsibility for auditing the reports to The Clerk of the Circuit Court. The Court then reviews the Clerk’s audit.

Audit Fees:

Audit fees are set by Florida Statute and based on the value of the ward’s estate. Refer to the Schedule of Service Charges for current audit fees.


For more information about guardian duties and responsibilities:

More details are available on the Court’s website: www.jud6.org.

Filing fees required to open a new guardianship case:

Please refer to the Schedule of Service Charges for current fees.

Where to File Guardianship Cases

You may file guardianship paperwork at the following:

Probate Court Records - Locations

Clearwater Courthouse
315 Court Street, Room 106
Clearwater, FL 33756
Telephone: (727) 464-3321

North County Branch
29582 U.S. 19 North
Clearwater, FL 33761
Telephone: (727) 464-8700

St. Petersburg Branch
545 First Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Telephone: (727) 464-7000

Announcement

After Hours Procedures for Baker Act and Marchman Act Petitions

Effective immediately, the following after hours procedures for filing petitions for involuntary examination or involuntary placement under the Baker Act (Chapter 394, Florida Statutes) and for involuntary assessment and stabilization or involuntary treatment under the Marchman Act, (Chapter 397, Florida Statutes) are implemented:

  1. After hours means after 4:00 p.m. or before 8:00 a.m. on a regular work day, or at anytime during a holiday or weekend day.
  2. Baker Act petitions for involuntary examination or for involuntary placement and Marchman Act petitions for involuntary assessment and stabilization will be received for filing and date/time stamping by the Clerk of Court but will not be processed after hours. After hours filings will be processed on the next working day.
  3. Petitioners wishing to file afterhours shall be informed of the following;
    a.) Their petition will be processed the following work day.
    b.) Petitioner may contact law enforcement or call 911 in the event of an emergency relating to the respondent.

Baker Acts

A Baker Act is a means of providing individuals with emergency services and temporary detention for mental health evaluation and treatment when required. An Ex Parte Petition for Involuntary Examination is also called Ex Parte Baker Act.

An ExParte Petition for Involuntary Examination may be filed if there is reason to believe that a person is mentally ill and because of his or her mental illness:

  • The person has refused voluntary examination and/or is unable to determine whether an examination is necessary.
  • The person is likely to suffer from neglect and the refusal could threaten his or her well being.
  • If there is a substantial likelihood that without care or treatment, the person will cause serious bodily harm to himself or herself or others in the near future as evidenced by recent behavior.

The person’s whereabouts must be known and in Pinellas County and the person cannot be in jail.

The petition can be filed by:

  • Anyone who has observed the behavior may complete a petition describing the actions of the person that cause them to think that there is a substantial likelihood that he or she will cause bodily harm to himself or herself or to others, or will suffer from neglect or refuse to care for himself or herself, posing a threat to his or her well being.

You must provide the court with sworn written testimony that meets the criteria set forth by Florida law. By completing the petition, you are requesting the court for an order for the person to be involuntarily transported and examined at a designated mental health facility.

There is no filing fee required to file a Petition for Involuntary Examination.

When and where to file the petition:

You may download and print the Petition for Involuntary Examination and file it at the listed Clerk's office locations, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Please note printed forms are also available at these locations. If another person also witnessed the behavior, and would like to submit their testimony, they may complete the Affidavit in Support of the Petition to be filed with the petition.

What happens after the petition is filed:

The court will review the petition. If the criteria required for involuntary examination has been met, a court order is issued, authorizing the Sheriff to pick up the person at the address provided in the petition. The Sheriff will transport the person to the nearest designated mental health facility. The facility must examine the person within 72 hours to determine the necessity of placement. If the examination by a psychiatrist determines that the person will need to be involuntarily placed for treatment, the facility will petition the court for a hearing within the 72 hours.

Probate Court Records - Locations

Clearwater Courthouse
315 Court Street, Room 106
Clearwater, FL 33756
Telephone: (727) 464-3321

North County Branch
29582 U.S. 19 North
Clearwater, FL 33761
Telephone: (727) 464-8700

St. Petersburg Branch
545 First Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Telephone: (727) 464-7000

Marchman Act: Substance Abuse

A Marchman Act is a means of providing individuals with services at a facility for substance abuse when required.

Filing Marchman Act Petitions

The below Marchman Act petitions may be filed in Probate Court Records:

  • An Ex Parte Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization, or
  • An Ex Parte Petition for Involuntary Services

A Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization may be filed when there is reason to believe that a person is substance abuse impaired and:

  • Because of the impairment, he or she has lost the power of self control with respect to substance use.
  • The person’s judgment is impaired because of substance abuse and he/she is incapable of appreciating the need for, and is unable to make a rational decision in regards to, substance abuse services.
  • He or she has either inflicted, attempted or threatened to inflict, or unless admitted, is likely to inflict, physical harm on himself or herself or another.

The petition may only be filed by:

  • The person’s spouse or guardian, any relative of the person, a director of a licensed service provider, a private practitioner, or any adult who has personal knowledge of the person’s substance abuse impairment.

In the case of a minor, only the parents, legal guardian/custodian or licensed service provider can file a petition.

When and where to file a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization:

You may download and print the Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization and file it at the listed Clerk's office locations, Monday - Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Please note printed forms are also available at these locations.

Probate Court Records - Locations

Clearwater Courthouse
315 Court Street, Room 106
Clearwater, FL 33756
Telephone: (727) 464-3321

North County Branch
29582 U.S. 19 North
Clearwater, FL 33761
Telephone: (727) 464-8700

St. Petersburg Branch
545 First Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Telephone: (727) 464-7000

Additional Requirements when filing a Petition for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization

To find the list of Florida Licensed Substance Abuse providers by city, visit the Substance Abuse page of the Florida Department of Children and Families website. From the "Essential Links" section on the left hand side, click on "For SAMH Providers," then click on "this listing" under the paragraph entitled “Substance Abuse Providers Currently Licensed by the Department.”

  • Before filing a petition with the court, you must reserve a bed in a designated facility for the person you are filing against.
  • The person must be in Pinellas and their whereabouts known.
  • The petitioner will need to bring the following information with them: name of the facility with the bed, the name and phone number of the contact person at that facility, and the day and time the bed will be available.
  • If the court grants the petition, the petitioner must provide a check or money order (no cash or credit cards) to the Clerk, but payable to the Sheriff for $40.00, to either serve a summons on, or pick up and transport the person to the facility.
  • Should the court set a hearing, the petitioner has the burden of proof, is NOT entitled to a court-appointed attorney, and must prove that the patient is impaired and is in need of professional evaluation.

After the Petition is Filed

If the Court finds that the criteria have been met, an Order for Involuntary Assessment and Stabilization will be issued by the Court. The Court may set the case for a hearing, or the Sheriff may ordered to transport the person to the designated facility. The facility then has 5 days to do an assessment. After the assessment has been completed at the facility, the petitioner may file a Petition for Involuntary Services of Substance Abuse for the patient and file it at the listed Clerk's office locations, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Please note printed forms are also available at these locations.

A hearing date is set for the determination of the need for treatment. The assessment results are subpoenaed as evidence for the hearing, and a summons to appear at the hearing is issued and served on the patient.

At the hearing the court will hear all the evidence and determine if the Order for Involuntary Services for Substance Abuse is warranted.

If the petitioner wants to drop their Marchman Act case, the petitioner may file a Withdrawal of Petition for Hearing on Involuntary Substance Abuse Assessment and Stabilization.

Probate Tours

The Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller offers the legal community an opportunity to tour the Probate operations at the Clearwater and St. Petersburg courthouses. The tours include an overview of document imaging, processing of new cases and, at the Clearwater location, the audit of estates and guardianship cases.

For further information or to set up an appointment, please email us.

You may also review our Probate FAQ for some more helpful information.