Beneficiaries of Florida estates will often approach us asking our help in keeping an eye on the estate’s Personal Representative (in most states this person is called an executor). This is often the result of the Personal Representative not sharing information about the estate with the beneficiary, the Personal Representative’s unreasonable delays, or when the Personal Representative’s behavior has raised the beneficiary’s concern.
When we are asked about what steps a beneficiary can take to keep an eye on the Personal Representative, I will outline various options, such as:
- Reviewing the estate’s file at the County Surrogates’ Office. The Personal Representative is required to make certain, timely filings with the Surrogate. These filings may hold valuable information about the Personal Representative’s progress…or lack thereof.
- Contact the Personal Representative’s attorney to let that attorney know that you have now retained an attorney experienced in Florida Probate and an attorney experienced in the Florida Surrogate’s Court. Sometimes an Personal Representative just needs a “nudge” from a lawyer to compete the estate.
- Request an Informal Accounting and copies of the estate’s various tax returns. We would then review these documents with you for accuracy. Some Personal Representatives make mistakes on these documents that are difficult for a non-Probate Attorney to recognize.
- Threaten to file a Petition for Formal Accounting and possibly a Petition to Remove the Personal Representative. Sometimes it is necessary to go to court. This is a threat our firm can back up, as we have both a Probate and a Surrogate Court Litigation department.
The exact plan of action taken whenever a Beneficiary asks us to keep an eye on an Personal Representative will depend on the exact facts of the case and the relationships between the interested parties.
Some Personal Representatives are slow to close an estate because of legitimate reasons, but at other times it is because they are lazy, emotionally unable to complete the job, spiteful or they can even be criminals using delay to cover their theft. When a Florida estate is not being handled in a manner you think appropriate, it is a good idea to have an experienced Florida Probate and Surrogate Court lawyer on your side.
If you have questions about Florida County Probate, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Wills, Trusts and Estates, It’s all we do!