Individual Liability of a Personal Representative in Florida

by

When is a personal representative subject to personal liability? As a general rule, a personal representative is not personally liable for liabilities that arise out of the personal representative’s actions pursuant to administration of the estate. A personal representative may nevertheless subject themselves to personal liability.

In Florida, unless otherwise provided by contract, a personal representative is not personally liable on contracts entered into on behalf of the estate. However, a personal representative will be personally liable on a contract for attorney’s fees.

If the personal representative is personally at fault, he or she may be personally liable for obligations that arise from the control or ownership of the estate or for any torts committed by the personal representative during the administration of the estate. For instance, if the personal representative committed fraud against a creditor of the estate, that creditor can then sue the personal representative for damages incurred by the personal representative’s fraudulent acts.

All contracts entered into by a personal representative in their capacity as a fiduciary of the estate subjects the personal representative to liability in their capacity as a personal representative, but not individually. In other words, if an independent contractor sues the estate for breach of contract, that independent contractor would name the personal representative of the estate as a defendant, but only in his or her capacity as personal representative. Thus, when suing the estate a plaintiff would identify the defendant as “Joe Smith, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Sally Johnson.”

However, such contracts only subject the personal representative to personal liability if the contract causes the personal representative to breach their fiduciary duty to the estate and the beneficiaries of the estate. Claims against the personal representative in their capacity as personal representative of the estate may also be brought against the personal representative by the estate itself.

If the beneficiaries of an estate later sue the personal representative for breaches of fiduciary duty or some other action, any issues of liability between the personal representative as an individual and the estate may be determined in a proceeding for indemnification, surcharge or accounting or other appropriate proceeding.

If you or someone you know is interested in bringing an action against a personal representative, it would be best to consult an attorney to establish a proper strategy to accomplish that goal.