The appointed personal representative of a Florida resident’s estate, i.e. the individual placed in charge of distributing the assets of the estate, must abide by certain fiduciary duties that he or she owes to the beneficiaries (the individuals named to receive assets) of the estate. Suppose you are named a beneficiary of your recently deceased grandfather’s estate whose domiciliary was in Miami Beach. Under Florida law, the personal representative must abide by certain duties to ensure that you receive the assets that the estate leaves in your name. Florida Probate Code section 733.602 states that a personal representative has a duty “to settle and distribute the estate of the decedent in accordance with the terms of the decedent’s will…as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate.”
A personal representative necessarily enjoys broad powers to administer an estate of a decedent. Pursuant to Florida Probate Code section 733.608, the personal representative holds all of the “real and personal property of the decedent, except the protected homestead” and “the rents, income, issues, and profits” from any such property. The personal representative then uses these assets to pay specific devises (set amounts of gifts or money), the family allowance, any elective share, estate taxes, and other expenses incurred during the administration of the estate. Additionally, the personal representative distributes any assets to named beneficiaries of the will in accordance with the will’s terms.
Thus, a personal representative must take actions necessary, but in accordance with the law, to effectively administer a decedent’s estate. However, if you are a beneficiary of an estate and feel that the personal representative is not acting in the estate’s best interests, you may have some recourse. Under Florida Probate Code section 733.504, a personal representative may be removed for various reasons. The reasons provided for under the Code include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) a court determination that the personal representative is incapacitated, (2) physical or mental incapacity that renders the person unable to carry out his or her duties, (3) wasting or maladministration of the estate, (4) conviction of a felony, and (5) having conflicting or adverse interests against the estate that will interfere with its administration. Therefore, it is important for you, as an entitled beneficiary, to make sure that the personal representative is not in breach of any of his or her duties owed to you or any other beneficiary under the will.
If you or someone you know lives in the West Palm, Fort Lauderdale, or the Miami-Dade area and is a beneficiary of an estate who believes that the personal representative is not properly handling the administration of the 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.