One of the primary tasks in any probate case is to have a personal representative appointed. If a valid Last Will and Testament exists, the courts will give great deference to the person or persons selected in that document to act as the personal representative. Once the personal representative is appointed, the individual(s) must understand their duties and their responsibilities to administer the estate.
Our team at Powell, Jackman, Stevens & Ricciardi, P.A., can help you navigate the probate process. To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (239) 970-6844.
What Do Personal Representatives Do?
In the broadest of terms, a personal representative:
"[I]s a fiduciary who shall observe the standards of care applicable to trustees. A personal representative is under a duty to settle and distribute the decedent's estate per the terms of the decedent's will and this code as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the estate's best interests. A personal representative shall use the authority conferred by this code, the authority in the will if any, and the authority of any order of the Court, for the best interests of interested persons, including creditors" (Fla. Stat. §733.602).
It is essential to note that a Personal Representative has a fiduciary duty to the estate's beneficiaries, including creditors, and shall be liable to any interested persons for loss resulting from any breach of that duty (Fla. Stat. §733.609).
A fiduciary duty is defined as an obligation to act in the best interests of another party. A personal representative can also be removed from that position for any breach of their duty. Breaches of duty which have been outlined in the statute include
- failure to comply with any order of the Court, unless the order has been superseded on appeal;
- failure to account for the sale of property or produce and exhibit the assets of the estate when so required; or
- wasting or maladministration of the estate.
Being a Personal Representative of an estate can be difficult if that person is not aware of their duties to the estate and its beneficiaries. In Florida, a Personal Representative must be represented by an attorney who can provide counsel and guidance to help navigate this process. Know your rights, but also your duties.
If you’re the personal representative in a probate case, our lawyers can help you pursue an optimal outcome in your probate case.