When Should a Personal Representative Be Removed from an Estate?

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After a loved one dies, you want the estate administration to go as smoothly and swiftly as possible, but sometimes the personal representative appointed by the Court is not up to the task. Family members can easily find themselves in over their heads, and companies can develop conflicts of interest that keep them from serving your family. Here’s how you can tell a personal representative should be removed from an estate.

What is the Personal Representative’s Job in a Florida Estate?

The personal representative (sometimes called an executor or estate administrator) is the person the Florida probate court designates to oversee the administration of a deceased person’s estate. Generally, this person was either named in the deceased person’s Will or is his or her next of kin. After an estate case is opened, the probate court will issue Letters of Administration to the personal representative, giving them legal authority to handle the estate’s affairs, pay off any final creditors, liquidate its assets (if needed), and distribute them to the intended beneficiaries.

The Florida probate system is set up to make this process run smoothly. Most estates can be resolved in about a year (unless there are lawsuits or tax issues to be resolved). However, when a personal representative isn’t doing their job, it can create delays and problems for family members waiting to receive their inheritance. In those cases, it will be up to the family to decide whether the personal representative should be removed from the estate.

Causes for Removal of Personal Representative

The Florida personal representative statute lists 12 reasons why a court may revoke a personal representative’s letters of appointment:

  1. That person becomes legally incapacitated
  2. Physical or mental illness prevents them from doing their job
  3. Failure to comply with court orders
  4. Failure to account for the sale of property or produce and exhibit estate assets when required to do so
  5. Wasting the estate’s assets
  6. Failure to post a bond or security
  7. Felony conviction
  8. Financial insolvency or the appointment of a receiver or liquidator for a personal representative company
  9. Conflict of interest interfering with the administration of the estate (except where surviving spouses exercise their elective share, family allowance, or other exemptions)
  10. Invalidation of the Will designating the personal representative
  11. Moving out of Florida (if domicile was a requirement)
  12. Disqualification for appointment

When to File a Petition to Remove Personal Representative

With certain exceptions, a petition to remove a personal representative can be filed as long as the estate has not yet been closed. Sometimes, family members may wait to file a petition, giving their loved one time to work through their own grief, heal from an injury or illness, or correct their mistakes. However, this will delay the final distribution of the estate. Once it is clear that one of the reasons to remove a personal representative has been met, it is wise to file the petition sooner rather than later. This is also true because additional deadlines can apply in the event certain notices were given. Filing the petition will begin adversarial proceedings and allow you to negotiate with the personal representative and other interested parties to find a resolution that honors everyone involved. The personal representative may resign and a successor may be appointed. If no settlement can be reached, the probate court will hear the petition to remove the personal representative, and any defenses they may have, and then decide whether there are grounds to revoke their Letters of Administration.

Who Can Seek to Remove a Personal Representative?

Any natural heir, beneficiary named in a person’s will, creditor to the estate, or other interested party has standing to file a petition to remove a personal representative from the estate. An “interested person” means someone who might be affected by the administration of the estate. Often, this can put family members in a difficult position. Filing a petition to remove a personal representative often means stating publicly that another loved one has failed to do right by the family.

Get Help Resolving Your Family’s Estate

It’s important to separate the needs of the estate from the feelings you might have about your family members. Many of the reasons to remove a personal representative listed above are entirely innocent – such as a person’s physical or mental health. In other cases, a family member may simply have taken on more than they could handle, and you need to bring in a professional to sort out the estate’s affairs. At Harrison Estate Law, our estate administration attorneys know how to approach these issues with sensitivity. We will help you do what needs to be done to protect your family without burning bridges between relatives and loved ones. Contact us here or call 352-559-9828 to get help today.

Categories: Estate Planning