How Does Probate Affect Wrongful Death Claims?

When a person passes away due to another person or party's negligence, their surviving family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against those responsible in pursuit of fair compensation. In many states, including Florida, these types of lawsuits may only be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person's estate. While this seems straightforward on the surface, filing a wrongful death claim can introduce several legal complications, many of which involve probate.

Who Is the Personal Representative?

Identifying the personal representative can either be a simple or complex process depending on whether or not a decedent created a will during their lifetime. Many personal representatives, also known as "administrators" or "executors," are nominated in a person's last will and testament and have the right to file a wrongful death action. If no will is present, however, an executor will be appointed by a probate judge based on state statute.

In Florida, the following parties will be given priority to serve as personal representative, in order:

  • The surviving spouse
  • The person selected by a majority in interest of the heirs
  • The heir nearest in degree, or best-qualified as selected by the court
  • Any capable person appointed by the court

Who Is Included in the Survival Claim?

While wrongful death claims are filed by a personal representative alone, it is filed on behalf of the deceased person's estate and any surviving family members, including the surviving spouse, children, parents, and any blood relative or adoptive siblings who were dependent on the decedent for support. The personal representative must be sure to name all eligible claimants when filing the claim. Any damages from the wrongful death claim will be distributed to these parties according to state law.

It is important to note, however, that individuals who are not entitled to a portion of the wrongful death lawsuit's proceeds are not excluded from other methods of inheriting from the decedent. Likewise, the wrongful death lawsuit will oftentimes not affect a person's inheritance from the decedent's estate or receipt of life insurance proceeds.

Lost a Loved One? Call (239) 262-5303

While no amount of money will ever replace a loved one, strong and competent legal representation can help to offer closure and ease the stress of such a loss. If you have lost a family member due to the wrongdoing of another, the award-winning Naples wrongful death attorneys at the Law Office of Conrad Wollkomm, P.A. can provide the strong legal support you need to push forward and maximize your chances of securing fair compensation. From handling all probate-related matters to negotiating with the responsible party's insurance companies and attorneys for a fair settlement on your behalf, we can carry the burden and ensure your rights are guarded.

Contact our office online today to set up your confidential case evaluation.

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