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."

Register for Document Subscription Service!

Circuit Probate

Judge Don T. Hall


Circuit Probate

Judge Deno Economou


Announcement Regarding Changes to Probate and Guardianship Division

April 6, 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:

To coordinate a hearing for a mission critical court proceeding, please contact the judicial assistant.


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.  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

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
  • 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

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 must 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. 

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.

For inquiries regarding the status of proposed orders, please check the Clerk’s website prior to contacting the judicial assistant via e-mail.

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

Need help to determine if you need a court ordered guardianship? Visit, a free non-profit guide to assist families in addressing their legal options as their children with autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and other intellectual and developmental disabilities, reach the legal age of adulthood.

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

Effective immediately through Friday, April 17, 2020:

    but can be heard remotely.  Any party wanting to attend the hearing via video conferencing must email the judicial assistant within 24 hours of the hearing to obtain the video conferencing link. 
  2. Case Managements, Pre-Trials, Docket Soundings and all nonevidentiary hearings
    regardless of length must be conducted via video conferencing.  If there is a court reporter, the court reporter must be remote and not in the courtroom. Should the scheduled hearing present a difficulty for any party, please file a motion to continue and explain that difficulty. A copy of the motion should be emailed to the judicial assistant with copy to all parties.
  3. Scheduling Hearings:
    There is hearing time available on JACS over the next few weeks, 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 assigned judge’s judicial assistant. The judicial assistants have received a much higher volume of telephone calls. Email contact with the judicial assistant with copy to all parties generally is the quicker and more efficient means of communication.
  4. Jury Trials:
    All jury trials during this time are cancelled.
  5. Nonjury Trials and Evidentiary Hearings:
    Currently, nonjury trials and evidentiary hearings may not occur during the COVID-19 state of emergency unless ordered by the assigned judge (usually with the consent of all parties).  The parties should discuss the logistics of conducting any nonjury trial or evidentiary hearing via video conferencing and to notify the assigned judge in advance for final determination as to whether the proceeding may occur.
  6. Emergency Matters: 
    Normal procedures for handling emergency matters outlined in Local Rule 4b are still followed. Emergency matters must first be presented to the assigned judge who, in most instances, will resolve the matter.
  7. Uniform Motion Calendar:
    Uniform Motion Calendar (UMC) are cancelled through the end of April.
  8. Emergency Temporary Guardianship hearings/Final Guardianship hearings/Hearings on DNR Orders:
    shall be conducted via video conferencing.  If the matter necessitates an in person hearing, a motion requesting an in person hearing must be filed indicating the reasons why the matter cannot be heard remotely. 
  9. Use of Video Conference for Court Hearings:
    The Zoom video conferencing platform will be used to conduct virtual court hearings, although traditional telephonic hearings remain a viable option. Information about Zoom may be found at its website. There are no fees for attending a court hearing via Zoom—the Court is obtaining the necessary licenses to permit judges to host the court hearings on the Zoom platform. This platform will allow individuals to appear via telephone if they do not have an available camera.
  10. Court proceedings are public; how to access a court hearing:
    As a reminder, Court hearings remain public proceedings despite the existence of COVID-19.  Until the Zoom platform is fully implemented, contact the judicial assistant via email to obtain the video conference link and call-in information for your hearing.  The party scheduling the hearing must include the video conference link and call-in information on the notice of hearing.

When the Zoom platform is fully implemented, the current plan (subject to change) is for those judges to post on a single page on the Court’s website the necessary information that will permit the parties and the public to access the court hearing. The Court will publicize the specific location of that page when it is available. Additionally, the Court will then require the notice of hearing to contain language that will direct the parties and public to that site.

Last updated March 26, 2020

Circuit Probate Division H

Judge Maria Ruhl