Crescenzo v. Simpson

Crescenzo v. Simpson, 239 So.3d 213 (Fla. 2d DCA 2018)

Can a court entertain a challenge to a will if that challenge was contained in a document other than a caveat? Here, where the challenging party filed an answer to a petition for administration which contained affirmative defenses disputing the validity of the will and objecting to the appointment of the personal representative, the Court held that the challenges did not have to be contained in a caveat under FPR 5.260 to be addressed by the court.

F.S. 733.110 says that any interested person who is concerned that an estate will be administered or a will admitted to probate without his or her knowledge may file a caveat with the court.  At that point, the probate court cannot admit the will to probate or appoint a personal representative until that challenge is resolved.  FPR 5.260 provides the procedural requirements for filing a caveat- it must include the name of the decedent, the last 4 digits of the decedent's social security number, and so on.  

Here, the pleading challenging the probate of the will was styled "Answer and Affirmative Defense."  While it failed to meet the procedural requirements of FPR 5.260 (among other things, it failed to contain the last 4 digits of the decedent's social security number),  the Court found that the allegations contained in the answer were sufficient to be a "functional equivalent to a caveat" and therefore required the court to consider those allegations before admitting the will to probate and appointing a personal representative.

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