Personal Representatives Gone Wild
Often with estates, a conflict develops between beneficiaries and the Personal Representative that leads to litigation. This litigation can be the result of a delay in administration of the estate, distribution of assets, or differences in personality. Recently a client hired our law firm to seek to remove a Personal Representative who had incurred very substantial fees for travelling around the country to repeatedly check on the decedent’s assets, which was an expense the client felt was unjustified.
Florida Statutes list causes for which a Personal Representative may be removed. One of these causes include “holding or acquiring conflicting or adverse interest against the estate that will or may interfere with the administration of the estate as a whole.” However, a dispute between the beneficiaries of an estate by itself in insufficient grounds to refuse to appoint a personal representative if otherwise qualified. That holding, however, came in a case where two sisters filed competing petitions for administration of their mother’s estate. One of the sisters had been appointed Personal Representative by will; the two sisters had a very adversarial relationship. The Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s appointment of a neutral third party, preferring to give the testator’s selection deference in the absence of exceptional circumstances.
While the Court in most circumstances will appoint the Personal Representative selected in the last will and testament, the court does not make the protesting beneficiary wait until a detriment is suffered if he can make his showing prior to the appointment. Ironically, my client did not object to the appointment of the Personal Representative, however he did not anticipate the Personal Representative being so wasteful of the estate assets.
If you are the beneficiary of an estate and object to the appointment of the named Personal Representative, or to the conduct of the Personal Representative after appointment, it is imperative to consult a Florida probate litigation attorney to ensure your interests are not potentially diminished or squandered.