How to Obtain Copies of Probate Documents in Sarasota County, Florida
A common question that I'm asked as an estate planning attorney is how to obtain a copy of a deceased person's last will and testament or other probate court filings. Because probate records are public court records that anyone can read, if a will has been filed for probate then you should be able to obtain a copy of it. And with modern technology comes the ability to locate information about a deceased person's estate online, and in most cases for absolutely free.
But while you may not be able to view copies of the actual will and other documents that have been filed with the probate court for free (many courts have started charging for the ability to view documents), at the very least you will be able to see a list of the documents that have been filed, who has been named as the executor of the estate, which attorney the executor has hired, and the name of the judge presiding over the case. Some courts even list the names of all of the beneficiaries of the estate. This will then give you the ability to request copies of the will and any other documents you are interested in viewing from the probate clerk's office, or you can try contacting the executor or the executor's attorney for additional information.
How to Find Out Where a Probate Estate Has Been Filed
One side note - how do you determine the appropriate probate court where an estate is being, or has been, probated?
An estate is probated in the county where the deceased person lived at the time of his or her death, or, in some cases, the county where the deceased person owned real estate. Use the following website to locate the correct name of the county by plugging in the name of the city where the deceased person lived or owned real estate: City - County Search.
How to Request Copies of Probate Court Documents
Once you have located the appropriate county, an online search can be done for that county's probate court or probate court dockets. This can be tricky because in some states the probate court is not actually called the probate court, it could be referred to as the "circuit court," "surrogate's court," "orphan's court," or any other number of courts. But be persistent - since probate occurs in each and every county across the country, chances are you will be able to locate the appropriate court's online information.
Once you have located the appropriate county, usually the steps involved in obtaining a copy of a will or other probate document directly from the probate court will include the following:
- Appearing in person and asking for a copy of the will or another probate document, or making a written request by fax or mail if applying in person is not feasible.
- Paying a copying fee for the number of pages that the will or another probate document contains. These fees usually range from $1.00 to a few dollars per page.
- Providing a self-addressed, stamped envelope for mailing the copies if the request is not made in person.
How to View the Online Probate Dockets for Estates Probated in Sarasota, Sarasota County, Florida
If the estate you are interested in is being probated in the Sarasota County Circuit Court located in Sarasota, Florida, then follow the links and instructions provided below to view the Sarasota County probate court dockets online:
- Click on the following link to the Sarasota County, Florida probate website: Online Services - Wills, Probate & Guardianships.
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Click Here to Acknowledge the Disclaimer and Search the Probate Database.
- Select how you want to search the database - Name, Company Name, Case Number, Uniform Case Number, or Date - and click on Continue.
- Enter the requested information. For example, if you are searching by name, then insert the last name and first name into the spaces provided and click on "Search."
- Once you locate the link to your probate case, click on the link and you will be able to see the following information: Filing date; attorney's name; judge's name; and a complete docket of court filings by date. Note that if you click on the "View" link next to a docket entry, you will be forwarded to a notice which states that the image is not available due to various administrative orders issued by the Supreme Court of Florida. See below regarding how to request copies of the documents you are interested in viewing.
Once you locate the documents you want to have copied, you can go back to the main page and click on Contact Us at the top of the page to locate the applicable address and telephone number. You can then visit the clerk's office in person or give them a call to determine the procedure for obtaining the copies and the costs involved.