Removal of Personal Representative: When conflicts between Personal Representatives and Beneficiaries create grounds for removal.
The administration of an estate can sometimes be a difficult and tedious process, which is further aggravated when the ever-present emotional aspects continue to linger, especially amongst heirs who have lost a loved one. Nevertheless, personal representatives are bound to their statutory duties and to properly administer the estate in the best interest of the beneficiaries. But what happens when that duty is breached or there appears to be a clear conflict between the personal representative and a beneficiary? Florida statutes and case law have provided several avenues for beneficiaries to seek appropriate remedies in such cases; however, one thing that beneficiaries need to remember and understand is the extreme dislike between beneficiaries and personal representatives is not sufficient grounds for the removal of a personal representative. Parker v. Shullman, 843 So.2d 960 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003).
So, what does that mean exactly? If a personal representative withholds funds properly owed to a beneficiary, is that sufficient for removal? If a personal representative and a beneficiary cannot stand to look at each other, is that sufficient? Although the Florida statutes in section 733 do enumerate the grounds for the removal of a personal representative, there is no clear guidance in the case law regarding whether the statutes are exclusive. In a 1985 appellate case, the personal representative was accused of murdering the decedent, yet a beneficiary’s petition for the removal of a personal representative was dismissed and affirmed by the appellate court. Anderson v. Anderson, 468 So.2d 528 (Fla. 3d DCA 1985). In Anderson, there appeared to be a conflict between the personal representative and the best interest of the beneficiaries, yet, the petition for removal was dismissed by the courts.
The remedies are available and appropriate in an estate where there exists a conflict between the personal representative and a beneficiary are determined on a case-by-case basis. As there is not a strict, exclusive list for the beneficiaries to review as to whether grounds for removal of a personal representative exist, it is always best to consult with a Florida probate attorney in assessing the properness of a personal representative’s appointment and conduct and what steps should be taken in the probate process.
If you have questions about the removal of a personal representative, you should contact the attorneys at Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. for a free consultation.