Surcharge of Personal Representative

April 9, 2010 by Bart Chepenik

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.

Access to Decedent’s Safe Deposit Box

April 7, 2010 by Bart Chepenik

While millions of Americans currently lease safe deposit boxes, few actually pay attention to the question of who should have access to their box at death. Additionally, many individuals choose to leave their Florida will in a safe deposit box. This situation can create problems because under Florida law, a court order is necessary to remove all contents from a safe deposit box unless there is a joint owner, such as a spouse, on the account.

Florida statute 655.935 helps to deal with the issue of a decedent dying when their will is in a safe deposit box. Once satisfactory proof of the decedent’s death is given to the bank, the statute grants limited access to the spouse, a parent or an adult descendant to open the safe deposit box that was leased by the decedent. The statute states that in the presence of a bank officer, the individual may open the safe deposit box and remove the will of decedent along with any burial instructions or life insurance policies found within the box. Nothing else may be removed. The will must then be deposited with the court having probate jurisdiction, whether that is in Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade county.

Once the will becomes admitted to probate by the court, a personal representative will be named. The personal representative is then granted access under Florida statute 733.6065 and court order to open and inspect the contents of the safe deposit box. The personal representative is required to file an inventory of the box to the court within 10 days of opening it. Additionally, the personal representative has a right to remove all contents of the box.

If you or someone you know in the West Palm, Broward, or Miami-Dade area needs help getting a Florida will that is in a safe deposit box, 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.