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A caveat is a formal notice to a judicial officer requesting the officer to suspend a specific action until the party has received an opportunity to be heard on the matter. Caveats are typically filed in probate proceedings by a party seeking to challenge the validity of a will. The purpose of the caveat is to prevent the court from initiating the administration of an estate without first notifying the caveat-filing party. States limit the scope and function of the caveat according to their probate codes. For example, Florida’s probate code requires probate courts to notify the caveat-filing party of pending probate proceedings and to permit the party to litigate his or her challenge to the will before the court may admit the will to probate.

Caveat can also mean a warning or admonition, and is most commonly associated with the legal maxim caveat emptor, which is Latin for “Let the buyer beware.”

[Last updated in August of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]