Personal representatives in Florida are typically responsible for administering estates. While administering the estate, they have a duty to act solely for the benefit of the estate beneficiaries. If the personal representative fails in their duty to properly administer the estate, they can be personally liable to the other beneficiaries for their mistakes. Mistakes include an act or failure to act by the personal representative that causes waste or mismanagement of the estate’s assets. An example of which would be imprudently investing the estate’s assets or failing to properly pay a creditor’s claim when due. A surcharge action must be filed in the proper circuit court where probate case is filed, whether it is in Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale or Miami.
To remedy for such mistakes, beneficiaries may seek to remove the personal representative. Additionally, those beneficiaries may pursue a surcharge action against the personal representative. The purpose of a surcharge action is to restore the losses to the estate caused by the breach of duty of the personal representative. Under Florida law, unless waived, a personal representative is required to post a bond with the court. When a beneficiary brings a surcharge action they are bringing an action against the personal representative stating that such individual has misappropriated or misused estate funds during the administration. If the surcharge action is successful, the bond company must then reimburse the estate for those amounts, up to the total amount of the bond.
Surcharge actions are intense and complicated procedures that involve tracing assets as well as reviewing business records. If you live in the West Palm, Broward or Miami-Dade area and believe a personal representative is not properly administering an estate, the probate litigation team at Chepenik & Trushin will help you obtain the proper legal relief. Please feel free to contact us for an initial first consultation.