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Tampa Estate Planning Attorney > Blog > Probate > Are You In Compliance With Your Fiduciary Duty As Personal Representative Of An Estate?

Are You In Compliance With Your Fiduciary Duty As Personal Representative Of An Estate?


A lot of people feel honored when they hear that a family member’s will contains a provision for the person to be appointed as person representative of the testator’s estate.  Acting as personal representative of a family member’s estate can seem like an act of love, and people gladly take on the responsibility as a final act of kindness toward a beloved family member.  Once you actually get started performing your tasks as a personal representative, it feels a lot like work, and it is work.  Unless you are a lawyer or the treasurer of a small business, you are probably new to these responsibilities.  If you make a mistake, other people connected to the estate, such as its beneficiaries or the decedent’s creditors, can accuse you of breaching your fiduciary duty as personal representative.  If the estate is complicated to settle, or if the beneficiaries seem determined to make your task as personal representative difficult, contact a Tampa probate attorney.

Fiduciary Duty in Estate Law Explained

A fiduciary is a person or entity who, because of their professional or official role, has a legal duty to act in the best financial interest of the party that has appointed them as a fiduciary.  The following are examples of fiduciary relationships:

  • An employee has a fiduciary duty toward an employer
  • An agent has a fiduciary duty toward the person who granted them power of attorney
  • A bank has a fiduciary duty toward its customers
  • A trustee has a fiduciary duty toward the trust and its beneficiaries

In addition to all of these, the personal representative of the estate of a deceased person is a fiduciary.  As a personal representative, you have a duty toward the estate itself and to its beneficiaries; in some cases, you also have a fiduciary duty toward its creditors.

Why Would Someone Accuse a Personal Representative of Breach of Fiduciary Duty?

If you make a major mistake with any of your duties as personal representative, parties with an interest in the estate can accuse you of breach of fiduciary duty.  For example, if you do not contact known creditors, and the estate settles before they have a chance to claim their debts, the creditors can make this allegation.  More often, though, accusations of breach of fiduciary duty come from beneficiaries of the decedent’s will.  For example, the beneficiaries might be upset that you paid too much to settle the debts or that you sold assets from the estate for an unfairly low price.  Sometimes grievances about breach of fiduciary duty are legitimate, but in other cases, it is just a matter of estranged relatives trying to cause trouble for each other or for the personal representative.

Contact David Toback With Questions About the Fiduciary Duties of Personal Representatives

A Central Florida probate lawyer can help you fulfill your duties as personal representative, so that the estate can settle in a timely fashion.  Contact David Toback in Tampa, Florida to set up a consultation.



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