If you are named as a personal representative in a Florida probate administration, you probably have been worried about your potential liability for actions you take as personal representative. While liability issues for personal representative are rare because personal representatives in Florida are required to be represented by an attorney, there are cases where an interested person has sued a personal representative for actions taken in that capacity. In this post, we’ll look at a few of the actions a personal representative can take where the personal representative can be assured that he or she cannot face liability.
Efficiently administering an estate means using the authority of the personal representative to liquidate or preserve assets as appropriate, pay creditors, make distributions to beneficiaries, and do anything else necessary to handle the decedent’s affairs. Sometimes, the personal representative in a Florida probate will need to do something out of the ordinary, or something more than anticipated. A Florida probate attorney can help determine if it’s necessary or advisable to have the court rule on whether or not the personal representative can act, or under what conditions the personal representative may act without incurring liability.
A personal representative is not liable for any action taken pursuant to a court order. In re Estate of Wejanowski, 920 So. 2d 190 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006). Under section 733.602(2), Florida Statutes, “A personal representative shall not be liable for any act of administration or distribution if the act was authorized at the time.” Section 733.603, Florida Statutes states that a personal representative in a Florida probate administration can invoke the jurisdiction of the probate court to “resolve questions concerning the estate or its administration.”
In these instances, if there is an order of the Florida probate court authorizing action by the personal representative, the personal representative cannot be held liable for that action, as long as the personal representative acts within the scope of the probate order. For example, if an order is entered by the Florida probate court authorizing the personal representative to sell certain property, and the personal representative sells the property identified in the order, the personal representative cannot later be held liable for the sale by an interested person.
If there is a question of whether the personal representative can take action in a probate case, section 733.603, Florida Statutes allows for the personal representative to ask the Court to resolve the question. The Court will likely issue an order and as long as the personal representative follows the terms of the order, the personal representative cannot be held liable for those actions. If you are a personal representative and you and your attorney cannot find authorization for a certain action in the relevant statutes and case law, then as personal representative you can request for the Court to authorize the certain action required.
Under section 733.204(2), Florida Statutes, “No personal representative who complies in good faith with the English translation of the will as established by the court shall be liable for doing so.” In this instance, if there is a will written in a foreign language, a translation of the will needs to be made for the Florida probate administration. Once the translation is approved by the Court, the personal representative is protected from liability for any action that the personal representative takes in accordance with the court approved translation of the will.
These are some of the general times when a personal representative will be protected from liability for actions in a Florida probate administration. If you are a personal representative, you need to be able to work closely with your attorney in order to ensure that you are acting in compliance with applicable law. This includes taking actions as personal representative that are authorized by law, the court, or the probated will. If you are named as a personal representative in a will, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. During the consultation, one of our attorneys can go over the probate process with you and provide you with an idea of the cost. We look forward to helping people with Florida probate issues.
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