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Fiduciary Duty: Trustee vs. Personal Representative

Written by on Feb 3, 2012| Posted in: General

What is a Trustee?  Who is a personal representative?

Is a Florida trustee’s fiduciary duty different from a Florida personal representative’s?  To answer this question, you must first ask what is the difference between a trustee and a personal representative.

A trustee is someone or some entity appointed in a trust to perform the tasks listed in the trust, which typically include the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries and handling any other issues that may arise in the administration of the trust.  A trust is a private document and is usually prepared for tax purposes, creditor protection and avoiding probate.  A personal representative is someone or some entity list in a Will or appointed by the probate court to administer the estate of a deceased person.

The duties and responsibilities of a trustee and a personal representative are listed in different sections of the Florida Probate Code (Fla. Stat. §§736 and 733, respectively), but Fla. Stat. §733.602(1) states as “a personal representative is a fiduciary who shall observe the standards of care applicable to trustees.”

Although the duties of a Florida trustee and personal representative are listed in different sections of the Code and Florida law goes into much further detail regarding the duties and responsibilities of a trustee, ultimately the law provides that the duties and responsibilities of a trustee and a personal representative are essentially the same and may be used interchangeably.  The Florida law makers believed that because a trustee and a personal representative are appointed with the important job of administering assets and have been trusted with great power and responsibility, it makes sense that each one should be held to similar standards.

For further information regarding the differences between a trustee and a personal representative and whether either one is fulfilling its fiduciary duties, it may be in your best interest to contact a Florida trust and estate lawyer or probate attorney.

 

 

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