South Sarasota County Probate & Guardianship Division

Requirements and Information

February 20, 2024

Maria Ruhl, Circuit Judge

Kaitlyn Averso, Judicial Assistant

Please read if you do not have an attorney Download as PDF

The Judge must apply the same rules to all parties, regardless of whether you have an attorney. The Judge will not talk to you about your case outside of the courtroom. Your opportunity to speak to the Judge is only during your hearing. The Judicial Assistant may not help you with your case or send information to other parties or attorneys on your behalf. The Judicial Assistant may not “give the Judge a message” or answer your legal questions. Additionally, please do not ask the Judicial Assistant for the outcome of a hearing or verify that an order has been signed; you may review Sarasota Clerk’s online docket for details about your case. Please remember anything you file with the Clerk must be provided to opposing attorney or party.

Attorneys of Record and Covering Counsel

Attorneys, including any attorneys covering hearings for counsel of record, must file a Notice of Appearance on any case in which they are filing pleadings, motions, etc. Covering Counsel must have a thorough knowledge of the case, be prepared to discuss it and have authority to make stipulations and admissions when appropriate as well as the ability to set future court hearings.

Standards of Professionalism

The Court expects all attorneys who appear to know and adhere to Administrative Order 2010-22.2, Standards of Professionalism, also found on the Sarasota County Bar Association’s website.

Mandatory Use of Document Identification Number [DIN]

The Clerk’s Office on the progress docket identifies a unique, sequential Document Identification Number [DIN] for each docket entry. Once assigned by the Clerk, the DIN does not change. Please include the DIN when referencing any filing, especially on hearing notices.

Interpreter Reservations

The responsibility for scheduling an interpreter rest solely with the person in need of interpreting services. The court does not automatically schedule interpreters. Interpretation services can be requested by telephone, email, or submission of the online request form. Each court event must be scheduled separately with the interpreter’s office. Requests for court interpreters should be made at least five (5) business days in advance of the scheduled court event. Requests made less than five (5) business days’ notice may not be accommodated. In cases where interpreting services are required for languages other than Spanish, additional time may be necessary to arrange for a qualified interpreter or a telephonic interpreting service may be used.

A. Remote Appearance

Audio-Video Communication Technology is technology that consists of electronic devices, system, applications, and platforms that permit all participants to hear, see, and speak to all other participants in real time. These devices should be stationary or “hands-free”, where all participants can be seen by the owner of the device on one screen.

1. The Court has the capability to offer Audio-Video Communication Technology (hereinafter ‘remote or remotely’) via Zoom for hearings. See Fla. R. Gen. Prac. & Jud. Admin., 2.530. The conference participants must have a stable internet connection, a device with a video camera and two-way microphone. Please review the Twelfth Circuit’s Public Access to Court Hearings page for access to the credentials and Court’s Guidelines for Zoom Video Appearances.

2. The following proceedings will be conducted remotely:

  • Pre-Trial Conferences (PTC)
  • Case Management Conferences (CMC)
  • All non-evidentiary hearings scheduled for less than 30 minutes

3. Hearings that require a Motion to Appear Remotely:

  • 30-minutes or more, non-evidentiary hearings
  • 30-minutes or more, evidentiary hearings

4. Motion or Objection to Appear Remotely: If requesting a hearing be converted to Remote, a motion showing good cause must be filed. A copy of the Motion along with the Notice of Hearing as well as the original Motion scheduled to be heard must be served on all who are entitled notice of the proceeding, including the court. A Party may file an objection in writing to the use of communication technology within 10 days after service of the motion or within such other period as may be directed by the court.

For the court to provide ample notice to the parties and court staff, all motions and objections should be concluded no less than 3 business days prior to the hearing. Prior to submitting the related request, the time slot must be reserved, and Notice of Hearing filed.

A party waives objections by failing to timely object to the motion unless, before the date of the proceeding, the party establishes good cause for failure to timely object. The decision to authorize the use of communication technology over objection shall be in the discretion of the court.

5. Remote Testimony: The Court may allow testimony to be provided remotely if all parties consent and approved by the Court. If the parties do not stipulate, then, there shall be compliance with the requirements of Fla. R. Gen. Prac. & Jud. Admin., 2.530(b)(2). A stipulation between the attorneys and/or pro se litigants does not automatically grant the relief requested. If approved, the court will enter an order.

6. Use of camera on Zoom. If you are authorized to appear by Zoom, you must appear with a working camera. You may not appear by telephone. This includes Court Reporters.

B. Hearing Procedures

1. File Motions: All motions must be filed with the Clerk prior to reserving hearing time.

2. Notice of Hearing: A Notice of Hearing must be filed immediately after reserving hearing time and must conform to the Twelfth Judicial Circuit’s Standards of Professionalism. Hearings are not permitted to be set unilaterally. You are responsible to ensure the notice of hearing contains the appropriate ADA notice and the appropriate DIN for each motion to be heard.

When drafting a Notice of Hearing for a remote hearing, you must include Judge Ruhl’s Zoom credentials. Judge Ruhl will host all Zoom events.

3. Hearings 60 Minutes or Less: All hearings 60 minutes in length or less must be scheduled using the Court’s JACS. Cases not scheduled using JACS will not be heard. Do not schedule back-to-back slots to obtain more hearing time (i.e., two back-to-back 15-minute slots to obtain 30 minutes of hearing time). This includes motions made by both parties. One case number should not take up more than one hearing slot in a standard business day. Back-to-back hearings will be canceled by the Court.

JACS: Please utilize account named “CIRCUIT H2 VEN FAM PB GA” for all in-person hearings. If time is not reflected, please submit a hearing request to the judicial assistant (see section B5 for more information). To schedule a remote hearing, please utilize account named “FAMILY DIVISION 2, SARASOTA” and select any available Zoom slot.

4. Hearings Longer than 60 Minutes: Please contact the Court’s Judicial Assistant via email to schedule hearings requiring more than one hour. See “Requests for Hearing Time” for additional information.

5. Requests for Hearing Time: If time slots do not appear on the JACS drop down menu for hearings 60 minutes or less in length, our calendar is booked. Please check JACS daily as timely cancelations will reopen and appear on the calendar.

To request hearing time from the Court, the following information must be included in the email:

  • list of motions and DIN (motions must be attached to email)
  • agreed total length of time needed by attorneys and/or pro se litigants
  • requesting appearance (either in-person or remote) – requesting party will be notified if a further motion will be required
  • general time frame requesting the hearing to be held (ex. month)
  • if you are on a trial docket
  • other scheduled hearings for the same case with Judge or Magistrate

If all parties are not copied, the request will not be reviewed.

6. The court always has alternative, unconventional hearing time options. See section “Requests for Hearing Time” for more information and include that you are interested in the alternative, unconventional hearing time options.

7. Cross-Notice, “Piggybacks,” or Substitutions: Once a motion has been set for hearing, additional motions may not be “cross-noticed,” “piggybacked,” or substituted during the time reserved for the original motion without the express consent of opposing counsel and the court. The scheduling party should be contacted for consent before seeking the court’s approval to add additional motions.

8. Ruling Without a Hearing: Nothing precludes the parties from stipulating that matters be determined based solely on written submissions (written motions and written responses with legal analysis). Any such stipulation must be signed by all parties, filed with the clerk, and copies of all paperwork to be submitted to our office for review.

9. Canceling Hearings: You must cancel hearings using JACS. When the court’s judicial assistant has finalized the docket — approximately five days in advance of the hearing — JACS will not permit you to cancel the hearing. In that situation, please email the judicial assistant to cancel a hearing. Please indicate “Notice of Cancelation,” case number and case style in the subject line of the email (attach document). You also must immediately send notice of cancelation to opposing counsel or party, including the court.

  1. Last-minute cancelations: If a cancelation is necessary within 24-hours of the scheduled hearing, call and email the judicial assistant immediately. You will be asked to provide a copy of the Notice of Cancelation and identify the reason(s) for the cancelation (i.e. scheduling conflict or resolved outstanding issues). Please be prepared to submit a stipulation and/or order where necessary. The deadline for these documents would be the time of the original scheduled hearing.

10. Compel Discovery: Pursuant to Administrative Order 2010-22.2, §E(1)(d), “Motions to compel discovery shall quote in full each interrogatory, question on deposition, request for admission, or request for production to which the motion is addressed and the objection and grounds given by the opposing party.”

11. Motions to Determine Confidentiality of Court Records: See Fla. R. Gen. Prac. & Jud. Admin. 2.420; In re Amendments to Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420-Sealing of Court Records and Dockets, 954 So. 2d 16 (Fla. 2007); and A.O. No. 2007-12.2.

12. Ex Parte Hearings: Ex Parte hearings shall be uncontested, non-evidentiary and 5 min. or less in length.

The Court has 5-minute hearings available every week, for hearings that used to be categorized as uniform motion calendar (UMC) hearings. We no longer have a designated date/time for these proceedings. We encourage the parties to review JACS for available time. If the parties need a 5-minute hearing sooner than what is available in JACS, then please contact the judicial assistant.

Once scheduled, the attorney desiring an Ex Parte hearing shall email the Probate Coordinator. The email shall include the Petition, Notice of Hearing, proposed Order(s) and all other relevant documents. The email subject line shall include the case style, petition type and date of the hearing. All documents shall be emailed in one .pdf attachment to the Probate Coordinator no later than noon, on the business day immediately preceding the hearing, no exceptions. No telephone appearances are permitted. Counsel will comply with Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and applicable case law in terms of motions and notices.

13. Matters to be set for Hearing:

  • Petition for Order Authorizing Payment of Fee and Expenses for Attorney
  • Petition for Order Authorizing Payment of Fee and Expenses for Guardian

C. Communications with the Judge’s Office

Unsolicited Communications

Unsolicited communication from non-parties will not be read by the Court.

Division Email

Email DivisionH2 dedicated email account. See sections “Submission of Orders” and “Courtesy Copies” for more information.

The subject line should contain the case number, name and relevant matter: 2010 CP 001234 SC – Doe v. Doe - 2 Hour Hearing Requested. All email shall comply with the rules regarding ex parte communications.

Pro Se litigants may only use the division email with the Court’s permission. Pro Se litigants must follow the Twelfth Judicial Circuit’s rules for pro se parties.

Inquiries About Cases & Orders

Before contacting the judicial assistant about the status of a case or pending order, attorneys, attorneys' staff and pro se litigants, should consult the Sarasota Clerk’s online docket.

Registered users of ClerkNet may receive automatic email notices whenever a new document is filed in a particular case.

ePortal

All attorneys and pro se litigants are required to provide an email address to receive signed orders electronically through the ePortal. See Administrative Order 22-1.2 and Fla. R. Gen. Prac. & Jud. Admin. Rule 2.516. Attorneys and pro se litigants encouraged to file the Designation of Current Mailing and Email Address (a link is also located under South County Probate & Guardianship court approved forms).

D. Submission of Orders

All proposed orders must contain a complete service list.

The court will not sign an order/judgment without clear evidence of agreement or consent by all parties or counsel’s affirmation that opposing counsel has approved the form and content of the order/judgment.

The court does not allow litigation by letter or email. If the parties cannot agree on an issue, the appropriate motion should be filed and set for hearing.

Do not submit a proposed order until all parties have reviewed and approved the proposed order. The court generally uses 12-point Times New Roman font with one-inch margins when drafting proposed orders.

Pursuant to Administrative Order 2022-1.2, effective January 24, 2022, the e-filing of proposed orders with the Clerk of Circuit Court is prohibited. See exceptions list.

Matters Requiring Clerk’s Audit Must be E-Filed

However, the following is a list of proposed orders that shall be E-filed in order for the Clerk of Circuit Court to be put on notice to conduct their review/audit.

Guardianship Probate
Order Approving Initial Plan Order Admitting Will
Order Approving Annual Plan Order of Discharge
Order Approving Initial Inventory The Clerk will transmit the hard copy of the proposed order
to the Court on their review has been completed
Order Approving Annual Accounting  
Order Approving Final Accounting  
Order of Discharge  

1. ePortal: All attorneys and pro se litigants are required to provide an email address to receive signed orders electronically. See Administrative Order 22-1.2 and Fla. R. Gen. Prac. & Jud. Admin. Rule 2.516. Attorneys and pro se litigants encouraged to file the Designation of Current Mailing and Email Address located under court approved forms. It is the responsibility of the attorneys and pro se litigants to update their contact information with the clerk any time there is a change. If a party does not have an email address, electronic submission and service will not be authorized.

2. Downloadable Forms: The court utilizes a number of standard orders, which are available for your use and download from the South County Probate & Guardianship Division page. Check this site often as the court adds new or modifies existing proposed orders from time to time.

3. Electronic Submission Court’s preference: Effectively immediately, all proposed orders submitted by attorneys in South County Probate & Guardianship Division must be submitted in compliance with Administrative Order 22-1.2 through the ePortal directly to the assigned Judge, and not filed on the “Progress Docket”. All proposed orders must be in Word Format only. All proposed orders must be accompanied by a cover letter that is also submitted though the ePortal in PDF/A format. The submitting attorney must ensure all parties/attorneys receive a courtesy copy of both the proposed order (Word format) and cover letter (PDF/A) prior to submission.

If an order is submitted electronically, the judicial assistant will serve the Order on the parties via email. The certificate of service must be complete and include the email addresses for all recipients. If additional U.S. mail copies need to be served, please modify the certificate of service accordingly for the movant to complete such actions.

4. ePortal and Division Email ‘Do Nots’:

  • use this division email address for any other purpose than the submission of a proposed order
  • e-file your proposed Order through the ePortal Progress Docket or submit a proposed order without a detailed service list. Service list must have more than names, include the method of service (email or mailing address).
  • submit two (2) orders for the same case at the same time in the ePortal. This will cause an error and one or both orders may be erased.
  • submit one proposed order for two (2) case numbers. Each case number must have its own document.
  • include any unnecessary marks on documents, including headers or footers (e.g., firm names, internal coding, watermarks, etc.) within the proposed Order.
  • submit consolidated forms. All Stipulations (once e-filed) shall be submitted with the proposed order as its own document. Motions and Stipulations not e-filed will not be considered.
  • email a directive such as “hold this proposed order for x days for an objection to be lodged”. If the paperwork has not been reviewed by all parties, it should not be sent to the Court.
  • use the email and send identical paperwork via U.S. Mail

5. U.S. Mail Submission: If an order must be submitted in paper format, you must also submit preaddressed envelopes with sufficient postage and conforming copies for all parties to receive a service copy. If the necessary copies and/or envelopes are not included, the parties will be required to retrieve copies from the clerk. Please assume the court will add several pages when determining postage amount for any non-routine orders.

6. Agreed To: The court expects that you will only submit a proposed order when all attorneys or parties agree on the form. If the agreement is not evident in the motion and proposed order, the party must submit documentation.

7. Disagreement (Form): If there is a disagreement on the form, or an attorney does not respond within a reasonable period of time, you may then send the proposed order with a concise statement identifying the disagreement and the steps you took to address it. The opposing attorney may submit at the same time an alternate proposed order. Please do not email a directive such as “hold this proposed order for x days for an objection to be lodged.”

8. Under Advisement: The court attempts to rule from the bench when appropriate. If the court takes a matter under advisement, the court tries to rule as quickly as possible under the then current circumstances. Do not call to ask about the status of the order. If four (4) weeks have elapsed without a ruling, the movant may email the judicial assistant to advise the matter has been under advisement for four (4) weeks. The four (4) weeks begins upon the court’s receipt of the last post-hearing submission (e.g., transcripts, supplemental briefs, legal authority, proposed orders).

9. After Hearing: Following a hearing, the court may ask the prevailing party to submit a proposed order. Do not submit a proposed order until all parties have reviewed and approved the proposed order. In some cases, the court will ask each party to submit a proposed order. Make sure to abide by any deadlines that the court gives, and all parties are copied. The court does not allow the hearing/motion to be reargued through email. If there are still outstanding issues, the court will give instruction on how to proceed and possibly set an additional hearing.

E. Courtesy Copies

1. Electronic Copies: Electronic copies of hearing materials should be sent to Division H2 email. The Court will accept these documents in electronic format only if provided as a single PDF file and must: be text searchable; be paginated with page numbers exactly matching the index pagination; be bookmarked consistent with the index. Proposed Orders/Final Judgments should be a separate attachment in Word Format.

If size limitations prevent the emailing of the PDF file as a single file, multiple files may be provided, or submit to the Court via a USB flash drive. If unable to send in PDF format, the Court would appreciate a paper copy of the motion, the directly relevant evidence (if applicable), only case law directly relevant and any responses filed by opposing parties.

2. Paper Copies: Paper copies of hearing materials may be submitted only if the submitting party is unable to provide electronic copies.

3. Submission Deadlines: The Court must receive all materials no later than three business days prior to the hearing. For larger hearings, the judicial assistant will provide a deadline at the time of setting. Please give opposing counsel — and the Court — the opportunity to be prepared to address your motion.

F. Emergency & Other Urgent Matters

1. Emergency, Expedited Request and Hardship Motions: If a party believes there is a factual basis for setting an emergency or hardship hearing, a detailed, sworn and verified motion setting forth the following should be filed:

  • that the movant first conferred with or made a good faith effort to contact opposing party to resolve the matter without Court intervention (efforts to be delineated in the motion re: contact and resolution);
  • the issue(s) that need to be resolved on an expedited basis and why they require an expedited hearing;
  • the basis for the waiver of any required mediation;
  • the amount of time needed, taking into account each party’s presentation.
Emergency or expedited hearings may occur during alternative, unconventional work hours at the court’s discretion.

The original motion shall be filed with the clerk, and a copy hand-delivered or emailed to the court and a phone call placed to the judicial assistant advising of the motion. The judge will determine whether the issues qualify as an “emergency” under the prevailing case law or whether a hardship exists thus justifying the waiver of mediation or the setting of an expedited hearing. The court will prepare an order advising the parties how to proceed. The court may issue an order requesting the non-moving party to file a written response. Failure to follow the steps as outlined in this section will constitute a basis for denial of the motion.

ExceptionEmergency Temporary Guardianships: Prior court approval for emergency temporary guardianships is not required as, by their very nature, these almost always need to be expedited. (You may contact the judicial assistant, via email, for expedited hearing time.) It is still required that copies of all documents be provided to the Court prior to the date of the hearing.

2. Time Sensitive Final Guardianship Hearings or Other Time Sensitive Matters: In the event that the parties are unable to locate a hearing date and time on the JACS calendar prior to a time-sensitive deadline, the moving party shall contact the Judicial Assistant directly, via email, to coordinate a hearing.

G. Exhibits for Evidentiary Hearings

For the Judge

Electronic Copies: Electronic copies of hearing materials should be sent to Division H2. The Court will accept these documents in electronic format only if provided as a single PDF file and must: be text searchable; be paginated with page numbers exactly matching the index pagination; be bookmarked consistent with the index. Proposed Orders/Final Judgments should be a separate attachment in Word Format.

If size limitations prevent the emailing of the PDF file as a single file, multiple files may be provided, or submit to the Court via a USB flash drive. If submitting as separate file, each exhibit as a separate file, labeled “Petitioner 1” or “Respondent A” and so on.

Confer with opposing counsel to determine what exhibits are stipulated and what evidentiary objections each side is maintaining and avoid duplicate exhibits.

For the Clerk

At a hearing, the attorneys/parties shall provide a binder to the Clerk with:

  1. A Table of Exhibits
  2. Each exhibit as a separate document labeled “Petitioner 1” or “Respondent A” and so on

H. Pretrial Procedures & Conferences

1. Mediation: Mediation must be completed, and a Mediation Report be filed with the clerk before counsel can submit a Notice for Trial. Mediation is required in all cases before scheduling any hearing before the court or magistrate, with limited exceptions.

  1. Exigent Circumstances: The court recognizes that exigent circumstances may exist that require an expedited hearing. If a party believes there is a good faith, factual basis for a hearing without prior mediation, that party shall file a detailed, sworn motion that includes the following information:
    • the issues that need to be resolved on an expedited basis;
    • the factual basis for the exigent circumstances;
    • that the moving party first conferred with opposing counsel;
    • the parties were unable to resolve the issue or there was no response.
    Upon receipt, the court will review the written motion and, if appropriate, set a short deadline for the opposing side to respond in writing. The court will also determine whether mediation may be waived by court order due to exigent circumstances.
  2. Exceptions. The following hearings may be scheduled without prior mediation:
    • Discovery-related issues (i.e., compel, protective order, objection to interrogatories, etc.). These motions must comply with the requirements of Administrative Order 2010-22.2, a copy of which is also available on the website of the Sarasota Bar Association.
    • Motions directed to the pleadings (i.e., amend, strike, default, dismiss, set aside, etc.)
    • Where there is an established history of domestic violence (either by stipulation or verified motion) that would compromise the mediation process.
    • Uncontested matters
    • After a default has been entered against the opposing party
    • By court order allowing an exception based on hardship, emergency, or other exigent circumstances pursuant to a written motion filed in compliance with these requirements.

2. Notice for Trial: The Notice for Trial must comply with Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.440 and describe:

  • the type of case to be tried;
  • the type of case to be tried;
  • the type of case to be tried;

The original should be filed with the clerk and a copy provided to the court.

Within 30 days of filing a Notice of Trial, the Petitioner shall review the pre-determined Case Management Conference (CMC) dates available on the website with opposing parties. After selecting a date, the Petitioner shall fill out a CMC order located under the court approved forms, and submit to the court for review.

3. Case Management Conference (CMC): The Court conducts two general types of CMCs:

  1. to select a trial date
  2. when a case needs more active management.

Any party may request a CMC. The Court strongly encourages the early use of CMC in more complex cases, multiple party litigation, or any case that might benefit from court intervention. Unless excused by the court in advance, all CMCs are mandatory for attorneys and pro se litigants. Clients are not required to appear at CMC.

If the parties submit an accurate and completed Trial Order, located under the court approved forms, to the court at least two (2) business days prior to the CMC, then the parties are excused. Parties are not excused until a confirmation email is sent by the judicial assistant.

Failure to attend the Case Management Conference could result in the court dismissing the action, striking the pleadings, limiting proof or witnesses, or taking other appropriate action. See Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.200(c)

I. Setting Case for Trial

1. Mediation: Mediation must be completed, and a Mediation Report be filed with the clerk before counsel can submit a Notice for Trial.

2. Notice for Trial: The Notice for Trial must comply with Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.440 and describe:

  • the type of case to be tried;
  • the specific issues to be tried:
  • the total time it will take all parties to present their case.

The original should be filed with the clerk and a copy provided to the court.

3. Before Pre-Trial Conference (PTC): The parties are strongly encouraged to review the Trial Order and the deadlines set out within. Parties are to confer at least seven (7) days prior to Pre-Trial Conference (PTC) to complete the required documents to tender to the court as identified in the Order.

4. Mandatory Pre-Trial Conference: General issues will be discussed and exhibits will be reviewed for discussions regarding stipulations regarding admissibility. All known motions/disputes (including any unresolved objections in deposition/video testimony) shall have been heard prior to the PTC or will be deemed waived. Absent a showing of good cause, the date/time will not be changed. Matters which have been settled may be set for final hearing at that time upon prior approval of the court.

Lead/Trial Counsel and pro se litigants must appear for the mandatory PTC. Clients are not required.

After PTC, the court will publish a trial lineup. Please note that if you are scheduled for a specific trial period, the court will make best efforts to have the Trial move forward. The court will designate “Back-Up” cases to be scheduled within the trial period in the event of a settlement or unforeseen issues.

5. Date Certain Trials: The court does not set date certain trials. After Pre-Trial Conference, the Court will assign cases to specific days during the trial period and assign back-up cases, if necessary. The attorneys, parties and witnesses are expected to be available the entire trial period. See Fla. R. Gen. Prac. & Jud. Admin., Rule 2.550 Calendar Conflicts

Once a Trial Order has been entered, any party requesting a date certain during the selected trial period is to file the appropriate motion and set the matter for hearing.

6. Continuances: This court adheres strictly to Fla. R. Gen. Prac. & Jud. Admin. 2.545(e) and Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.460. A stipulation to continue a trial does not automatically continue a trial. A trial may only be continued by court order. All deadlines remain intact until a court order is entered. Accordingly, motions for continuance and stipulations must be in writing and set forth:

  • The signature of the litigant as well as the attorney.
  • A concise statement of the reasons for a continuance. If based on non-availability of a witness, a showing of when it is believed the witness will be available must be stated.
  • All motions and any stipulation must be heard at least ten (10) days prior to trial, unless otherwise permitted by the court.

No motion or stipulation will be considered that is not in compliance with this order.

7. Settlements when Scheduled for Trial: If the parties settle after being scheduled for trial, Petitioner’s counsel shall immediately notify the court in writing and copy to opposing counsel/party. Settlements may be noticed for final hearing at the PTC with copy of the notice being provided to the court. The Court will take those parties last.

8. Settlements Occurring after PTC: If the parties settle after PTC, the parties must notify the court’s judicial assistant and must also immediately contact the attorneys next in order on the trial lineup, even over the weekend. Additionally, all cases will resolve prior to or during the trial period. Parties should be prepared to hold the final hearing morning of trial or during the trial period, unless indicated otherwise by the court.

J. Preferred Division Forms

For access to the approved division forms, please visit the Probate Division page.

K. Other Division Procedures

1. Attorney Rotation List: Effective July 1, 2015, Court Administration will begin maintaining a list of attorneys who have agreed to represent alleged incapacitated persons (AIP) in guardianship cases.

  1. How to Apply to be on the List: Qualified attorneys who wish to be appointed in guardianship cases must submit the Court Appointed Registry Application for cases assigned July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017. Attorneys who have been approved for the prior Fiscal Year may complete a Renewal Short Form. Review the circuit’s Court-Appointed Attorney page to review certification requirements and application information.
    Applications must be submitted to Court Administration for approval. Once approved, attorneys will be added to the list.
  2. Renewing your Application: All attorneys must re-apply to be on the registry every fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 30. Applications are accepted year-round, however they are only valid for the fiscal year applied for. Attorneys are encouraged to submit their applications for the new fiscal year prior to July 1.
  3. How to Receive an Appointment: The attorney filing the petition for guardianship shall contact the appropriate Clerk’s Office to obtain the name of the next available attorney. It is then the petitioning attorney’s responsibility to contact the appointed attorney, who shall advise if they are able to represent the AIP in the guardianship proceeding. If the attorney is unable or unwilling to represent the AIP, the petitioning attorney shall notify the Clerk’s office, who will distribute the next name on the list.
    The Clerk will maintain an internal record of appointments including the date the attorney’s name was distributed, the name of the petitioning attorney and the name of the AIP, as well as documentation of instances where the attorney was unable to accept an appointment.
  4. Sarasota County cases call: 941-861-7612
    The court requires the following language on all proposed orders of appointment: “Petitioner’s attorney has certified to the court that he/she has complied with 12th Judicial Circuit Probate and Guardianship division requirements to obtain the above-appointed attorney from the Attorney Rotation List maintained by the Clerk of Circuit Court.” This procedure is designed to be fair and to help the court avoid any appearance of impropriety or preference for any qualified attorney who is on this list. Should it be brought to the attention of the court that this procedure is not being followed in good faith, the court will make an appropriate inquiry.
    Counsel wishing to be added or removed from the attorney rotation list should contact Court Administration in Sarasota (941-861-7800). Being removed from the appointment list does not affect any current cases you may already be appointed to.

2. Motions to be heard by Magistrate Ellis: The following matters shall be scheduled before Magistrate Ellis, unless either side files a written objection: All motions directed to the pleadings, discovery, and service of process, jurisdiction, and arbitration. In addition to the traditional matters heard by Magistrate Ellis, the parties may utilize Magistrate Ellis for any other matter to which the parties consent, including injunction hearings and summary judgment motions. Injunctions and summary judgment motions must be specially set by stipulation by contacting Magistrate Ellis’s assistant. If a scheduling party has any question with regard to whether a certain motion should be scheduled before the Magistrate, the scheduling party should call or email Magistrate Ellis’s assistant.

The judges of the Twelfth Circuit Court require attorneys to schedule certain motions before Magistrate Ellis. The scheduling attorney must prepare and forward an “Order of Referral” with the appropriate number of copies and stamped/addressed envelopes to the assigned judge for signature, unless an Order has previously been entered. The form “Order of Referral” is available on the website.

Scheduling is to be done through JACS (Court #27) after obtaining the signed Order of Referral.

3. Probate Procedural Information:

  1. Bond for Personal Representative: A bond is required not only to protect assets, but also to ensure that the personal representative does what is necessary to timely close out the estate. General guidelines the court will use are as follows:
    Type of Personal Representative Amount of Bond
    Florida Resident P.R. No bond, but Court discretion to set
    Out-of-State P.R. with value $50,000 or less Bond equal to value of estate
    Out-of-State P.R. with value in excess of $50,000 $50,000 bond, but Court discretion to set
    Out-of-State P.R. with co-P.R. in-state bank/trust
    company holding assets
    No bond, but Court discretion to set
  2. Mandatory Checklists: The Court utilizes form checklists to determine if Petitions are correct, and to verify that required documents have been provided. The checklists shall be done and E-Filed for all cases/ hearings, including ex parte and JACS hearings.
  3. Petition to Determine Homestead - When a Hearing is Unnecessary: If either two years have lapsed since the date of decedent’s death or 90 days since the date of first publication of Notice to Creditors, and a claim has not been filed, then homestead can be determined by petition/proposed order without a hearing. The petition should include facts establishing that the claim period has expired and that no claims have been filed.
  4. Obtaining a Homestead Order in a Summary Administration: The Petitioner generally swears that there are no creditors. If there are known creditors with timely filed unsatisfied claims, notice needs to be provided of a hearing on the homestead issue. Under the summary procedure, publication to determine unknown creditors isn’t required.

4. Guardianship Procedural Information:

  1. Accountings & Annual Plans: F.S. 744.3678, Fla.Prob.R. 5.695(2) and 5.696, direct that each guardian must file an annual accounting. F.S. 744.367 has been amended, effective July 1, 2015. In both Manatee and Sarasota counties, pursuant to 744.367(2), the Clerk requires an annual accounting to be filed on or before the first day of the fourth month after the end of the fiscal year.
    F.S 744.367 and 744.3675 require that a guardian of the person file an annual guardianship plan. In both Sarasota and Manatee counties, the Annual Plan is due 60-90 days prior to the last day of the anniversary of the Letters of Administration.
  2. Appointment of Attorney for Alleged Incapacitated Persons (AIP): Per F.S. 744.331(2), the court shall appoint an attorney for each person alleged to be incapacitated in all cases involving a petition for adjudication of incapacity. The person may substitute his/her own attorney.
    Per F.S. 744.3031(1), in emergency temporary guardianship proceedings the court shall appoint counsel to represent the alleged incapacitated person during any such summary proceedings.
  3. Guidelines Regarding Alleged Incapacitated Person/Ward’s Wishes: F.S. 744.312 provides that the Court must consider the wishes of the AIP regarding the appointment of a Guardian. If the AIP is unable to indicate a preference, the Court must consider the preferences of the AIP’s next of kin. The Court may not give preference to an ETG Guardian when appointing a permanent guardian. A professional guardian serving as ETG may not serve as the permanent guardian unless the Court makes specific findings of fact that the professional guardian has certain skills that are necessary for a particular guardianship, or one of the next of kin, or the Ward, requests that the professional guardian continue to serve as guardian.
  4. Attorney/Paralegal Fees Effective July 1, 2023: Consistent with the standards for Attorney’s Fees in this circuit, Attorney’s Fees in guardianship matters are capped at $425.00 per hour for those attorneys with 1-10 years of experience in guardianship matters and $450.00 per hour for those attorneys with over 10 years of experience in guardianship matters. Paralegal fees are capped at $150.00 per hour. The Petition for Attorney’s Fees must state the attorney’s number of years of experience in guardianship matters.
    Reductions: Where there are concerns regarding billing entries, the Court may be unable to make a finding that some of the fees sought are reasonable for services described, and must reduce the fees accordingly. The Court must operate under the premise that the description provided represents all of the work that was completed for the time billed, and that no further explanation exists. (The Court recognizes the difficulty in second guessing time expended by an attorney or a guardian.)
  5. Examining Committee Fees: Pursuant to Administrative Order 2016-9.2 In re: Due Process Service Rates, the following fee guidelines apply:
    Ward Non-Indigent Fees Ward Indigent Fees
    Physician/Psychiatrist or Psychologist: $400 Physician/Psychiatrist or Psychologist: $350
    Other committee members: $250 Other committee members: $250
  6. Proposed Order Compensating Examining Committee:
    1. If there is no unresolved clerk determination of indigence, the petitioning attorney should bring the original and copies of the Order Compensating to the adjudicatory hearing.
    2. Ward Indigent: Your order must include the following language: “By the submission of this Order, the attorney confirms that the clerk has made a determination, based on known income/assets, that the ward is indigent. The attorney and guardian are proceeding at no expense to the ward. Based on indigence, the fees shall be paid by the Court Administration budget for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit.”
    3. Ward Non-Indigent: Your order must include the following language: “The fees shall be paid from the assets of the guardianship estate.”
  7. Professional Guardian Fees Effective July 10, 2023:
    • For those professional guardians with 0-2 years’ experience, fees are capped at $75.00 per hour.
    • For those professional guardians with 2-5 years’ experience, fees are capped at $90.00 per hour.
    • For those professional guardians with 5-10 years’ experience, fees are capped at $105.00 per hour.
    • For those professional guardians with 10+ years’ experience, fees are capped at $125.00 per hour.

    The Petition for Guardian’s Fees must indicate the professional guardian’s number of years of experience in guardianship matters.
    The above rates contemplate the professional guardian having a 25% or greater indigent caseload. In order to receive the maximum available rate, the professional guardian must attach to the petition for guardian’s fees a spreadsheet demonstrating that a minimum of 25% of their caseload is indigent cases. Professional guardian fee petitions that are submitted without this documentation will be capped at a rate that is $25.00 per hour lower than the above stated rate for those professional guardians demonstrating a current minimum 25% indigent caseload.
  8. Professional Guardian Fees (Indigent Ward): When an attorney files a petition for an order compensating a professional guardian on an indigent ward, the petition must include language attesting that the ward is indigent (in this instance, fees are sought in case unknown assets are later discovered or the ward becomes non-indigent).
  9. Requests for Hourly Fees in Excess of Court Approved Rate Effective July 10, 2023: For requests for fees in excess of the court approved rate for either attorney, paralegal, or professional guardian rates, the requesting party must set an evidentiary hearing and present evidence and/or testimony supporting the requested rate. In addition to any statutory criteria, the testimony/evidence must show that the case was unusual, complex, or required extraordinary work or effort by the requesting party.
  10. Non-Professional Guardian Fees: In an effort to strive for consistency, fees for non-professional guardians will be set at $30 per hour for non-relatives, and $15 per hour for relatives. An exception would be if written consents are provided from all potential beneficiaries. The consent must include language reflecting that the beneficiary is aware that the guardian is charging more than the usual court approved rate of either $30 or $15 per hour, as appropriate. Each time a petition for fees for a guardian is submitted reflecting an increased hourly rate, the attorney should attach a copy of the original consent(s) to allow that determination to be made without reviewing the court file. (The consent only needs to be obtained once at the time of the filing of the first petition for fees.)

Contact Information