While many in Hernando County may view the probate process as being extremely complex, there is likely one aspect of it that most would likely agree is fairly straightforward: For it to begin, one has to be dead. The idea of proving that someone is indeed dead may seem odd to some, but when dealing with the potential dispersal of an estate, it is a necessary step.
Per Florida’s Probate Code, to validate a claim of death, one of the following steps must be completed:
- An authenticated copy of the decedent’s death certificate must presented
- A copy of government records or reports must be presented showing that one is alive, missing, detained or presumed dead
- Evidence must be shown that a person has been missing from his or her las known domicile for a continuous period of at least five years
In the case of a missing person, an interested party could have him or her declared dead prior to the end of the aforementioned five-year period if he or she were able to present evidence that the missing person was exposed to a specific peril of death at the time of his or her disappearance.
Information compiled by the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System shows that at any given time, as many as 90,000 people are officially missing in the U.S. Why would one want to have one of these missing persons declared dead? He or she may be blocked from dealing with shared estate matters while a person is still viewed as being alive. Any authority to liquidate or assume control of shared assets can only be given once that person is declared dead. Upon a declaration of death, beneficiaries may also them receive estate disbursements (as well as life insurance benefits).