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Breach of Fiduciary Duty and Beneficiary Rights

The personal representative of an estate owes the beneficiaries of the estate certain fiduciary duties of honesty, prudence, and loyalty. When those fiduciary duties are violated by a personal representative, an inheritance may be put in jeopardy. The attorneys of Clark Skatoff PA can represent beneficiaries and personal representatives with the following issues regarding the adminidtration of a probate estate in Florida:

  • Failure to follow Florida Probate Code, Rules of Probate Procedure, or an order of the Probate Court.  The Florida Probate Code provides detailed rules governing the conduct of the personal representative.  When those rules are violated, an inheritance can be put in jeopardy.  The Florida Probate Code also provides that a personal representative who violates orders issued by the Florida Probate Court can be removed. 
  • Florida Probate Fraud.  In most cases of breach of fiduciary duty, the damages are caused by negligence.  In some situations, however, the personal representative commits intentional acts of fraud, deceit, and dishonesty.  We have seen examples of personal representatives who steal the assets of the estate. 
  • Improper investments.  The Personal Representative of a Florida estate is required to invest the assets of the estate cautiously and conservatively.  When the personal representative invests the assets the assets improperly and causes loss, a breach of fiduciary duty may have occured which can be remedied by an action for breach of fiduciary duty.  The action against the personal representative is sometimes called a surcharge action. 
  • Self dealing,  If the personal representative engages in transactions between the estate and the personal representative, such transactions could be a breach of fiduciary duty.  
  • Excessive compensation.  The compensation of the personal representative is supposed to be reasonable.  The Florida Probate Code sets forth guidelines for reasonable compensation.  If the personal representative takes a fee greater than what is reasonable, the probate court can reduce the compensation to what is reasonable. 

When the personal representative’s breach of fiduciary duty, negligence or probate fraud results in a financial loss to the estate, the probate court can remedy the situation through a monetary award against the personal representative or others involved in the wrongdoing in a surcharge action. The Florida probate court can also remove the personal representative if cause can be shown.

If you or a loved one have questions about the administration of a trust or an estate, please call 888-752-8633 or send one of our Florida probate lawyers an email.



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