Florida Probate Statute 733.404: Liability of Surety
A personal representative’s job is to settle the estate of a decedent and distribute estate assets according to Florida law. Even though the probate court takes great care in ensuring that a personal representative is qualified, there are instances in which the actions of the personal representative result in financial loss to the estate and to the beneficiaries or heirs. Under Florida law, personal representatives are required to purchase a surety bond, also referred as an estate bond, probate bond, executor bond, or fiduciary bond. A surety bond is a contract between three parties—the principal (personal representative), the surety (the insurance/surety company) and the obligee (the beneficiaries)—in which the surety financially guarantees to an obligee that the principal will act in accordance with the terms established by the bond. If you would like to learn more about the fiduciary bond requirement, including the requirements of Florida Statutes, section 733.404- Liability of surety, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale probate lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates.Surety Bond Requirement
In Florida any individual serving as a personal representative must file a bond, while if the personal representative is a company, there is no bond requirement. However, the probate court has the right to waiver the bond requirement. As an experienced Fort Lauderdale probate lawyer will explain, it is important to understand that regardless of whether a decedent’s will states that no bond is required, the probate court judge may still order bond.Amount of Bond
The amount of the bond will be set by the probate court. It will be based on a number of factors such as the value of the estate, the encumbrances on the estate, creditors, and the relationship of the personal representative to the beneficiaries. The personal representative can charge the premium to the estate as an expense of administration.Liability of Surety
The surety company is the company that provides the bonds that are used as a guarantee that the personal representative will perform his or her duties in a manner consistent with his or her fiduciary duties. If while managing a decedent’s estate the personal representative actions in a negligent, reckless, or illegal manner, and as a result the beneficiaries suffer a financial loss, the beneficiaries can filed a claim with the surety company. If the surety company determines there is validity to the claim, it will pay the claim to cover the losses suffered by the beneficiaries to the extent of the bond that was purchased.
However, as an experienced probate attorney in Fort Lauderdale will explain, there are limits on the liability of a surety. Under Florida Statutes, section 733.404- Liability of surety, a surety for any personal representative shall not be charged beyond the value of the estate involved because of an error in pleading or of false pleading of the personal representative.Related Statutory Provisions
- Bond of fiduciary; when required; form : § 733.402, Fla. Stat.
- Amount of bond : § 733.403, Fla. Stat.
- Release of surety: § 733.405, Fla. Stat.
- Bond premium allowable as expense of administration : § 733.406, Fla. Stat.
No surety for any personal representative or curator shall be charged beyond the value of the assets of an estate because of any omission or mistake in pleading or of false pleading of the personal representative or curator.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
If you have questions related to the bond requirement for personal representatives and other fiduciaries, including the requirements of Florida Statutes, section 733.404- Liability of surety, it is important that you discuss your concerns with an experienced probate attorney serving Fort Lauderdale. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have over two decades of experience representing clients in matters related to probate, estate litigation, and estate administration and understand the rules of the Florida Probate Code, including the bond requirements. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.