It may not surprise you to learn that not all probate proceedings go smoothly. Like other areas of law, trusts and estates has its share of complications and disputes.
During the probating of a deceased’s estate, it is not uncommon for disagreements to arise between the personal representative and the beneficiaries.
The personal representative is the person in charge of administering the estate. The beneficiaries are decedent’s heirs and those who benefit from the estate’s assets.
When it comes to administering the estate or distributing estate property, beneficiaries and personal representatives don’t always see eye to eye. Quite often, this can lead not only to strained relations, but to litigation.
Although not liking a personal representative or even avidly distrusting him or her won’t by itself allow beneficiaries to remove a personal representative, there are some situations that can lead to removal. Understand, however, that there is no definitive list setting out exactly when grounds for removal of a personal representative exist. Nevertheless, there are some areas of dispute among beneficiaries and personal representatives that lead to some common claims against personal representatives.
Here are just 3 of them.
- Not providing an Accounting.
A personal representative has a number of duties he or she must perform while administering an estate. Among them is the duty to account to the beneficiaries. The law gives beneficiaries the right to know how the estate is being handled. A common ground of dispute between beneficiaries and personal representatives is the lack of providing an accounting. When a personal representative fails to provide an accounting, the personal representative may find himself/herself embroiled in litigation.
- Tortious Interference with Inheritance
Florida law recognizes a tort called “tortious interference with an expected inheritance.” Disputes between beneficiaries and personal representatives that are grounded in fraud, duress or other similar torts may constitute tortious interference with inheritance. The tort requires proof of four (4) essential elements, but basically, it arises when someone, through fraud or duress prevents a beneficiary from receiving an inheritance or gift that he or she would have otherwise received.
- Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Another common allegation made by beneficiaries against personal representatives is breach of fiduciary duty. A personal representative if a fiduciary. As such, he or she must always act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. The acts and decisions made by a personal representative with regard to collecting and distributing the assets of an estate frequently lead to disagreements. When this happens, it is not uncommon for beneficiaries to bring a claim of breach of fiduciary duty against the personal representative.
There are, of course, claims other than those listed above that can be brought against a personal representative. Which is why it is always important to consult with experienced trusts and estates counsel.
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Don’t leave planning for your future and that of your loved ones to chance. All it takes is one phone call to SJF Law Group to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and your loved ones taken care of when you are gone. We expertly guide individuals through the complex probate process, and capably handle all aspects of the creation, administration, and settlement of trusts as well. When you work with the estate planning attorneys at SJF Law Group, you get more than just an estate plan: you get peace of mind. Call us at 954-580-3690 or email us at: [email protected] today.