In the event that a person dies intestate, or a person wishes to challenge a will, the probate court may be called on to decide who should benefit from the estate. Individuals can come forward and present evidence as to what they think the intentions and wishes of that person would be and then the court will make a determination.
What can an interested party do if the court doesn’t rule in their favor? How does the appeals process work?
The appeals process requires specific grounds
If an interested party thinks that the probate court made a mistake in its decision-making, they need to find out whether a full and final decision was issued on the merits. This is needed in order for an appeal to be allowed at all.
When it comes to appealing, simply disagreeing with the decision of the court is not enough. There must be sufficient and proper grounds on which to appeal. This usually means demonstrating that the court erred in some way such as misinterpreting the law or failing to apply a law properly to the situation. Another issue might be failing to admit evidence that should have been allowed or allowing evidence that should have been suppressed.
More than this, the error has to have affected the outcome of the case in a prejudicial way. This means asking, “If the error had not been made, would the outcome have been different?” If so, this usually means there’s a chance of a successful appeal.
What can be appealed in a probate case?
Not all decisions can be appealed. Certain conditions need to be met and there are strict time limits that must be complied with.
The procedural rules that apply can be found in Rule 9.170 of the Florida Appellate Rules of Procedure. These rules specify the type of probate decisions that can be appealed, such as orders to determine:
- A petition or motion to revoke the probate of a will
- An estate’s interest in any property of the deceased
- A petition for probate of a lost or destroyed will
- Whether to make distributions to any beneficiary
Appealing a probate decision is complex so it’s important to seek legal guidance early on in the process.