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Florida Probate Statute 733.601: Time of Accrual of Duties and Powers

In Florida, when someone passes away the probate court appoints a personal representative to care for the decedent’s assets and to make sure those assets are transferred to the appropriate people as required by law. In caring for and safeguarding a decedent’s estate, time is of the essence. There are some tasks which must be taken care of immediately, even before the personal representative has been formally appointed by the probate court and has received letters of administration. It is important that the personal representative and interested parties understand the duties and responsibilities of the personal representative, including the requirements of Florida Statutes, section 733.601- Time of accrual of duties and powers. The skilled Fort Lauderdale estate administration attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have the experience and resources to answer your questions related to the estate administration process.

Appointment of Personal Representative

The individual who wishes to serve as personal representative of an estate initiates the probate process by filing a petition, along with the will if there is one, with the probate court that has jurisdiction over the estate. If the probate court judge approves the petition, he (or she) will issue the personal representative a document called “letters of administration.” Letters of administration serve as proof that the personal representative has legal authority to perform the activities required to settle the decedent’s estate. As an experienced Fort Lauderdale estate administration lawyer will explain, once the personal representative has received the letters of administration, the law requires that he (or she) quickly move forward with the settlement and distribution of the decedent’s estate. Furthermore, unless the law or a court order provides otherwise, the personal representative has the authority to complete the activities necessary to settle the estate and distribute assets without an order of the court and without direction from the court.

Responsibilities of the Personal Representative

The personal representative has tasks that he must perform in order to safeguard estate property, settle the estate, and distribute estate assets. While the personal representative does not have the full power of the office prior to the issuance of letters of administration, there are tasks that must be done right away that are in the best interests of the estate. For example, a nominated personal representative should secure estate assets even before the issuance of letters of administration. Failure to do so may result in a loss sustained to estate property in the period between the decedent’s death and the personal representative’s receipt of letters from the probate court.

Under FL. Stat, section 733.601- Time of accrual of duties and powers, even though the duties and powers of a personal representative begin once he or she has been appointed by the probate court, his (or her) powers relate back in time to give acts by the person appointed, occurring before appointment and beneficial to the estate, the same effect as those occurring after appointment. In other words, the acts of a later appointed personal representative will be considered as within his authority as long as they were proper.

Examples

In his will, Terrence named Joshua personal representative of his estate. When Terrence passed away unexpectedly, Joshua immediately filed Terrence’s will with the probate court along with a petition requesting letters of administration. While waiting for the court to rule on his petition, Joshua discovered that a few family members had entered Terrence’s home and removed estate property. Joshua immediately changed the locks on Terrence’s home and added a security system. Joshua also demanded that the relatives turn over the property that was taken from Terrence’s home. Soon after, the probate court issued letters of administration to Joshua. Under section 733.601- Time of accrual of duties and powers, Joshua’s actions were within the scope of his duties as personal representative of Terrence’s estate, even though they occurred prior to Joshua receiving the letters of administration.

Consequences for the Personal Representative

Whether the action of the personal representative was taken after letters of administration were issued or before, as long as the personal representative actions were in good faith, in accordance with the law, and in the best interests of the estate he will not face personal liability. On the other hand, if the personal administrator breaches his fiduciary duty by not acting in the best interest of the estate and its beneficiaries, by not being impartial, or by not exercising reasonable care in managing the estate, he or she may be personally liable for losses to the estate as a result of his or her actions.

If you have questions related to the application of the rules of section 733.601- Time of accrual of duties and powers, to the administration of an estate in which you have an interest, discuss your concerns with an experienced estate administration attorney in Fort Lauderdale.

Related Statutory Provisions
  1. General duties: § 733.602, Fla. Stat.
  2. Personal representative to proceed without court order: § 733.603, Fla. Stat.
  3. Inventories and accountings; public records exemptions: § 733.604, Fla. Stat.
  4. Opening safe-deposit box: § 733.6065, Fla. Stat.
  5. Possession of estate: § 733.607, Fla. Stat.
FL. Stat, Section 733.601- Time of Accrual of Duties and Powers

The duties and powers of a personal representative commence upon appointment. The powers of a personal representative relate back in time to give acts by the person appointed, occurring before appointment and beneficial to the estate, the same effect as those occurring after appointment. A personal representative may ratify and accept acts on behalf of the estate done by others when the acts would have been proper for a personal representative.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience representing personal representatives, beneficiaries, heirs, and other parties in matters related to the administration of testate and intestate estates, estate disputes and litigation, and other estate matters. If you have questions related to the duties and authority of a personal representative, including the application of Florida Probate Code, section 733.601- Time of accrual of duties and powers, to your situation, we can help. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.

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