Monday, December 15, 2014

Real Property, Probate & Trust Law: Can We Get Some Service Here, Please?

By Michael R. Kangas

Getting good service in a downtown restaurant at lunchtime is sometimes difficult. However, getting good service in a trust proceeding is sometimes even harder, until recently.

Effective October 1, 2013, the Florida Trust Code permits service of process by any form of mail, or commercial delivery service, requiring a signed receipt in in rem and quasi in rem trust proceedings. § 736.02025(2), Fla. Stat. (2013). Previously, litigants seeking in rem or quasi in rem relief in trust matters were required to serve process as provided for in Chapter 48, just as in any other civil proceeding.

The new procedure is similar to the procedure for service of formal notice in probate proceedings under Florida Probate Rule 5.040. Like Rule 5.040, section 736.02025 allows a plaintiff to serve process by sending a copy of the summons and complaint to the defendant or to a person authorized to receive service on behalf of the defendant as provided for in Chapter 48, Florida Statutes. However, the summons and complaint must be sent by a method that requires a return receipt. This would include commercial delivery services as well as certified mail. Proof of the service is then made by a verified statement of the person serving the summons that attaches the signed receipt or other evidence that the delivery was made to the addressee or other authorized person.

Unlike Rule 5.040, however, section 736.02025(3) also provides for service by first-class mail. This method of service is limited to three circumstances: (1) Service by a method requiring a signed receipt is not available; (2) delivery is attempted and is refused; or (3) delivery by mail requiring a signed receipt is unclaimed after notice to the addressee. If service of process is obtained under the provision providing for service by first-class mail, proof of service is then made by a verified statement stating the basis for service by first-class mail, the date of mailing, and the address to which it was mailed.

This statute will not get you that lunchtime salad any faster, but it should help a lot in your next trust proceeding in rem or quasi in rem.