Circuit Probate Court

The Probate Division of the Circuit Court has jurisdiction of proceedings relating to the settlement of the estates of decedents and minors, the granting of wills, guardianship, involuntary hospitalization, and the determination of competency. The Probate Division also has jurisdiction over proceedings relating to the Jimmy Ryce Act (sexual predator) and hears all jury trials and hearings regarding these matters.


A guardian is a surrogate decision-maker appointed by the court to make either personal and/or financial decisions for a minor or for an adult with mental or physical disabilities. After adjudication, the subject of the guardianship is termed a "ward."

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Circuit Probate

Judge Don T. Hall


Circuit Probate

Judge Deno Economou


Judge Diana Moreland (Effective January 2021)


Announcement Regarding Changes to Probate and Guardianship Division

May 12, 2020

Effective Immediately


Pursuant to Administrative Order 2020-4.2, the Probate and Guardianship Division of Sarasota County will be scheduling limited hearings on the following matters determined to be mission essential matters, pursuant to Administrative Order 2020-4.2

  1. Hearings on Do Not Resuscitate Orders
  2. Hearings for the appointment of emergency temporary guardian
  3. Final Guardianship hearings
  4. Hearings on Risk Protection Orders

Parties calling witnesses for mission essential hearings must comply with Supreme Court Administrative Order No. AOSC20-16 regarding notaries & witnesses:

If you are unable to locate hearing time on the JACS calendar for a mission critical court proceeding, please contact the judicial assistant at


With the exception of certain matters that have been previously scheduled on the JACS calendar, and Until Further Notice The court shall continue to hear non-evidentiary, uncontested and stipulated matters less than 15 minutes in length as part of its Ex Parte calendar. 

All hearings scheduled before Judge Williams shall be conducted telephonically.  Again, it must be emphasized that the scheduling attorney is primarily responsible for arranging the necessary conference call and coordinating with all the required parties to the hearing.  No witnesses shall be called and no evidence shall be introduced.

Conference call-in information and courtesy copies of paperwork must be transmitted to the probate coordinator at  Failure to provide conference call information will result in the cancellation of your hearing.

In an effort to avoid delays in hearing non-mission critical telephonic hearings, the court is adopting a staggered JACS hearing calendar that attorneys may scheduled on a first come, first served basis.  Attorneys should have conference call details available at the time of scheduling to include in the JACS notes.

Parties unable to schedule or locate hearing time for non-mission critical telephonic hearings on the JACS calendar may request hearing time by contacting the judicial assistant at

Every effort will be made to accommodate all hearing requests.

The JACS schedule follows:

  • 9:30 a.m. 3 hearing timeslots
  • 9:45 a.m. 3 hearing timeslots
  • 10:00 a.m. 3 hearing timeslots
  • 10:15 a.m. 3 hearing timeslots
  • 10:30 a.m. 3 hearing timeslots
  • 10:45 a.m. 3 hearing timeslots
  • 11:00 a.m. 3 hearing timeslots
  • 11:15 a.m. 3 hearing timeslots
  • 11:30 a.m. reserved for court set emergency hearings
  • 11:45 a.m. reserved for court set emergency hearings
NEW: Limited contested matters may now be scheduled for telephonic or virtual hearings

Contested matters defined: a contested matter is one that is adversarial in nature, is not agreed to, or an opposing party is involved who does not consent to the proposed action by the court.

Parameters: contested matters shall be matters less than three hours in length and consist of a reasonable number of witnesses and documents of evidence.  The reasonableness number of each shall be determined at a case management conference prior to the contested hearing taking place.

To obtain hearing time contact the judicial assistant at

Mandatory Case Management Conference: prior to the contested matter being heard the parties shall coordinate a case management conference on the Court’s JACS calendar at least one week prior to the hearing to discuss matters such as stipulations, presentation of witnesses and evidence and other potential logistical concerns inherent to remote hearings.

If the Court determines that the matter is not appropriate for a telephonic/remote/virtual hearing, the Court may cancel the hearing.

Parties are reminded that pursuant to Administrative Order No. 2003.4-5 (see page 8 of the Court’s requirements), those Probate matters that are identified by the moving party to last  ½ day (3 hours) must be re-assigned to a Civil Division Judge.   The moving party must make a written request to the Court for hearing time.  The re-assigned Civil Judge will make the decision as to whether the matter is appropriate for a telephone/virtual contested matter.  


Effective immediately, the Court requires that all orders transmitted to the Probate Coordinator for hearings pending before the court must be sent in a separate .pdf document. Petitions, motions and any other courtesy copies shall be sent in a .pdf scan separate from proposed orders.

Parties are reminded that the Court requires all paperwork for hearings to be transmitted to the Probate Coordinator via e-mail.  The e-mail subject line shall include the case style, motion and date of the hearing and the paperwork shall be transmitted no later than 1:00 p.m. on the preceding day of the hearing.


Please note that the requirements for transmitting routine ex parte proposed orders to the Court for consideration without a hearing  have not changed.  See pages 4 and 5 of Judge Williams’ requirements.

Judge Williams does not accept proposed routine ex parte orders via e-mail.  Please do not send proposed orders to the probate coordinator or judicial assistant e-mail address unless specifically directed to do so.  If your office is experiencing exceptional circumstances that prevent following this requirement, please contact the judicial assistant.

Until further notice, our office will not be distributing conformed copies of orders to the parties, regardless of whether copies and envelopes were provided to the court.  It shall be the moving party’s responsibility to obtain a copy of the order from the clerk’s website and distribute a copy to the relevant parties.

Please continue to check the 12th Circuit website for up to date information on court proceedings and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Circuit Probate

Judge Charles E. Williams

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Updated Temporary New Procedures for All South County (Venice) Circuit Matters

ALL SOUTH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HEARINGS WILL BE HELD VIA ZOOM With the exception of essential proceedings,[1] all hearings will be conducted via video conference. Essential proceedings can be and have been conducted effectively remotely; therefore, these proceedings may proceed in-person only if it is shown that conducting the proceedings remotely is infeasible due to the lack of technological resources.[2] If an essential matter must be heard in-person, file a motion requesting an in-person hearing and detail the difficulty that exists in being able to participate remotely. Email the motion to the judicial assistant with a copy to all parties.

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 shall be evidenced by an agreement signed by all parties and filed with the Clerk.

  1. Use of Video Conference for Court Hearings: As a reminder, court hearings remain public proceedings despite the existence of COVID-19. The Court will use the Zoom video conference platform to conduct virtual court hearings. You can find information about Zoom at its website. Zoom is FREE. If you are unfamiliar with the Zoom platform, please go to the Zoom training page to learn how to access the platform.

    The Court must be able to see all parties. The use of the audio number provided with the hearing information is if the video/camera device does not have a two-way microphone.

  2. Scheduling Hearings: There is hearing time available on JACS and nothing about scheduling hearings has changed. If hearing time is not available in the timeframe you need, or for longer hearings, please continue to contact the judicial assistant. Alternate, unconventional dates are always available. Email contact with the judicial assistant with copy to all parties generally is the quicker and more efficient means of communication.
  3. Requirements for the Notice of Hearing: The public’s constitutional right of access to the courts is of utmost importance.[3] The necessary information that will permit the parties and the public access to the court hearing is accessible at Judge Ruhl's Zoom Video Conference Access Information page. Additionally, the Court also requires the notice of hearing to contain language that will direct the parties and public to that site.

CMC, Pre-Trial Conference & Docket Sounding: Plaintiff’s counsel (or defense counsel, if plaintiff is pro se) shall file a Notice of Hearing with all Zoom hearing information separate from the Order entered by the Court.

The Notice of Hearing shall contain the following: zoom website, meeting id, password, audio access (for issues as indicated in paragraph 2), and alternate link from the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court website. If any of the listed information is missing, the hearing will be cancelled by the Court without further notice to the parties as the hearing was not properly noticed. As of August 26, 2020, the direct Zoom link will no longer be required or published. Please utilize the 2 Ways to Access the Hearing as shown in the Required Language section.


Copy to Clipboard

Notice of Hearing for Zoom Video Conference

All parties must appear via VIDEO conference; meaning, the Court must be able to see all parties. Please log into your hearing a few minutes early to test mic and video connections. When asked for your name, please type your FIRST and LAST name so the court may identify you properly. Zoom is FREE. Information about Zoom may be found at its website, If you are unfamiliar with the Zoom platform, please go to the ZOOM training page website,, to learn how to access the platform for use.

DATE & TIME: [insert date & time here]
MATTER: [insert matter here]
LOCATION: Video Hearing


  1. Online: Go to the Zoom Join Meeting page, [Then enter the meeting ID & password listed below]
  2. Alternate link to meeting list:

Meeting Id:
Audio (if the video/camera device does not have a two-way microphone):

  1. Jury Trials: All jury trials are cancelled through December 31, 2020.[4] However, parties shall attend the Pre-Trial Conference, as it will serve as a Status Conference. If the parties would like a sooner Status Conference, please review JACS for available hearing time or contact the judicial assistant.
  2. Nonjury Trials and Evidentiary Hearings: Prior to docket sounding, the parties shall discuss the logistics of conducting any nonjury trials or evidentiary hearing remotely. Once a date/time certain has been reserved, parties shall set a short Status Conference with the Court to discuss any issues concerning video conferencing matters. For those on a trial docket, this date will usually be set by the Court to occur after Docket Sounding and before the start of trial. Parties are encouraged to review the Civil Guidelines for Virtual Evidentiary Hearings prior to setting the Status Conference.
  3. Emergency Matters: Normal procedures for handling emergency matters outlined in Local Rule 4b are still followed. The Court, when considering any emergency motion, may a require a written response from the other party prior to a video conference hearing being set and the Court may rule upon the motion without any hearing.
  4. Uniform Motion Calendar: UMCs are cancelled. Please review JACS for all available hearing time. There are 5-minute time slots available every week, except during the trial periods. If the parties are looking for hearing time within a week or are not able to find time, proceed with the normal procedure (see paragraph 3). 

Last updated June 1, 2020.

[1] Essential proceedings are Injunction hearings, Emergency Temporary Guardianship hearings, Final Guardianship hearings, and hearings on DNR Orders. See In Re: Comprehensive COVID-19 Emergency Measures for the Florida State Courts, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-23.1, Amendment 1 (Fla. May 4, 2020); In Re: COVID-19 Emergency Procedures and Mission Essential Functions, Twelfth Judicial Circuit Admin. Order No. 2020-4.2 (March 18, 2020).

[2] “Participants who have the capability of participating by electronic means in remote court proceedings shall do so.” In Re: Comprehensive COVID-19 Emergency Measures for the Florida State Courts, Fla. Admin. Order No. AOSC20-23, Amendment 2 (Fla. May 21, 2020).

[3] Fla. Const. art. I, § 21; Fla. Const. art. I, § 24;  Sarasota Herald-Tribune v. State, 924 So. 2d 8, 10 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005).

[4] In Re: Order Suspending Civil Jury Trials Through September 18, 2020, Twelfth Judicial Circuit Admin. Order No. 2020-13.01 (May 29, 2020).

Circuit Probate Division H

Judge Maria Ruhl