Defend a Personal Representative
A personal representative is the person responsible for managing a decedent’s estate upon her (or his) death. Typically, the personal representative is named in the decedent’s will, if any. However, in the absence of a will any who has an interest in the estate and would like to serve as personal representative can petition the circuit court to be appointed personal representatives. The personal representative has a number of duties that he must take care of before an estate can be closed and the assets distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries. The probate court judge oversees the activities of the personal representative. However, on occasion disputes develop during the process of winding up an estate, resulting in claims of misconduct being filed against the personal representative. If you were named the personal representative of an estate and are faced with a dispute related to your responsibilities, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale probate attorney.
Responsibilities of Personal Representative
The personal representative is responsible for all activities related to managing the decedent’s estate, winding up her affairs, and distributing asset to the beneficiaries. Those responsibilities include:
- Inventorying, appraising, and safeguarding the estate
- Paying estate debts and expenses
- Settling claims against the estate
- Filing tax returns and paying taxes
- Filing final accounting with the circuit court
- Distributing assets to the beneficiaries
The personal representative is considered a fiduciary. This means that she is legally bound to perform her duties in an honest manner, for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Failure to do so may result in legal liability.Claims Against Personal Representatives
Estate litigation naming a personal representative as the defendant is also is often related to claims by beneficiaries, heirs, or creditors that the personal representative failed to carry out her duties properly. However, the personal representative will be involved in any estate disputes, as the personal representative is required to defend the estate against claims. Examples of litigation involving personal representatives include:
- Will contest . A will contest is a claim by interested parties such as an heir or beneficiary, that the will does not actually reflect the wishes of the testator. The basis for a will contest can be that the decedent suffered from a lack of testamentary capacity, that she was under undue influence, that fraud was involved, that the decedent was under duress, or that the will was not properly executed. As a Fort Lauderdale probate attorney will explain, if a petitioner makes a claim challenging the validity of the will the personal representative is required to defend the estate.
- Breach of fiduciary responsibility . Personal representatives are in a position of trust with respect to the estate and the beneficiaries and heirs. They are required by law to conduct their responsibilities with honestly, without self interest, and with the estate and beneficiaries best interests in mind. If an interested party such as a beneficiary or heir has reason to believe that the personal representative has breached her fiduciary duty, the interested party has the right to file a claim against the personal representative. Grounds for fiduciary duty claims against the personal representative include distribution of assets in a manner inconsistent with the will, concealment of assets, self-dealing, and abuse and powers.
- Challenges to estate accounting . One of the responsibilities of the personal representative is to submit a final accounting of the estate to the court. The accounting must include detailed records of all of the activities related to managing the estate. For example, the personal representative is required to report to the court exactly what assets were in the estate at the time of the decedent’s death, as well as their value, and their location. The personal representative is required to include details about all money or property left in the estate, as well as any money or property which came into the estate. The personal representative must give details about distributions. If there are any discrepancies in accounting such as inaccuracies related to distributions or if there is suspicion of fraud, a beneficiary has a right to file an objection to the accounting and a claim against the personal representative.
The probate attorneys in Fort Lauderdale at the Law offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have extensive experience defending personal representatives in complex probation litigation cases. We have the resources to vigorously defend a personal representative against breach of fiduciary duty claims, claims related to fees and accounting, and any other claims against the personal representative. If you need an attorney to defend a personal representative in Fort Lauderdale, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates. We have years of experience representing personal representatives, beneficiaries, heirs, and fiduciaries in a variety of estate matters. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.