How to Obtain Probate Documents in Duval County, Florida
You Can Visit the Courthouse or Mail In Your Request
Probate is the legal process that transfers ownership of assets from a deceased individual who can no longer hold property to a living beneficiary after her debts, taxes, and expenses of the estate have been paid.
Documents pertaining to most of these transactions, including the decedent's last will and testament, are a matter of public record. Anyone can access them, including those filed in Duval County, Florida.
You should be able to get copies without much trouble after the will has been submitted to the court. But, of course, there are rules and procedures you must follow.
Where Has the Probate Estate Been Filed?
First you must determine the probate court where the 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. Duval County covers the following major municipalities:
- Atlantic Beach
- Jacksonville Beach
- Neptune Beach
Unfortunately, you can't simply call the Duval County court and ask if a certain estate is being or has been probated. The court clerk and personnel won't tell you over the phone whether probate has been opened for a certain individual. This would effectively mean doing your search for you while you hold on, and courts just don't have that kind of time.
What Records Can You Access?
Many courts have begun charging for access to the documents themselves, but you'll at least be able to see a list of the documents that have been filed at no charge. You can also typically learn the name of the executor of the estate, any attorney she might have hired, and the name of the judge presiding over the case. Some courts even list the names of the estate's beneficiaries.
All this information gives you the ability to request copies of the will and any other documents you're interested in viewing from the probate clerk's office, or you can try contacting the executor or the estate's attorney for additional information.
Some information is strictly confidential, however, depending on your relationship to the estate and the decedent. Only the estate's executor, its attorney, and "interested parties"—those who have a financial stake in the estate because they're possible heirs or creditors—can view inventories of the estate's property, including values and accountings, in Duval County.
You can simply follow these links to view the probate court dockets online, although Florida law does not allow the documents themselves to be posted online. You'll have to take these extra steps to secure copies.
Visit the Duval County, Florida search website: Welcome to the Court & Official Records Search. Click on the link when you've located your probate case. You should see the decedent's name and date of birth, the name of the individual who petitioned the court to open probate, case fees, and a complete docket of court filings by date.
You can then visit the clerk's office in person or give them a call to determine the procedure for obtaining the copies of the documents and the current costs involved.
How to Request Copies of Probate Court Documents
A search can be done at the court after you've located the appropriate county and you have the case information. The Circuit Court handles probate in Duval County, Florida.
The steps involved in obtaining a copy of a will or other probate document include:
- Appearing in person and asking for a copy of the will or another probate document. The Duval County courthouse offers a computer system on site that will allow you to conduct your search and make your request electronically. By law, the clerk cannot help you fill out any necessary forms or give you legal advice.
- Making a written request by fax or mail if applying in person isn't feasible. Include the decedent's full name and his date of death. There's a $2 search fee as of 2018. There may be a copying fee as well based on the number of pages that the will and another probate document contain. Fees must be paid by business check, cashier's check, or money order—personal checks aren't accepted. Provide a self-addressed, stamped envelope for mailing the copies if you're not making the request in person.
The mailing address for Duval County is: Duval County Clerk of Courts, Attn: PROBATE DEPARTMENT, 501 West Adams Street, Room 1173, Jacksonville, FL 32202.
You can also send an email through the court's website.
Florida law allows you to file a "caveat" with the court if you're an interested party—you have a financial stake in the estate because you're a possible heir or perhaps a creditor. A caveat puts the Circuit Court on alert that you want to receive notice when and if a probate proceeding is ever opened for a certain individual.
This can take a lot of the guesswork out of the early days of trying to track down records.