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Saturday, February 03, 2007

MERE CONFLICT NOT ENOUGH TO DENY APPOINTMENT OF PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE [FLORIDA]

Under Florida law, an individual may appoint a Personal Representative ("PR") in their Last Will. Such appointment is to be given significant deference by the probate court when the individual dies and a PR is appointed.

A recent Florida case addresses the issue of what happens if the person designated PR in the Last Will has a conflict with estate beneficiaries. In the case, the designated PR was a brother of another estate beneficiary. The probate court noted that the designated PR and the beneficiary were fighting over some estate issues, and instead appointed an unrelated attorney to serve as PR. The designated PR appealed the ruling.

The complaining beneficiary alleged that the designated PR had the original Last Will and had taken too long to act upon it, and was thus delaying the administration of the estate. He also alleged that the designated PR had withdrawn more funds than he was entitled to from an account, but the probate court did not agree as to that.

The appellate court noted that the mere presence of a conflict between a named PR and beneficiaries is not enough to deny the appointment, and it reversed the probate court and directed that the brother be apopinted as PR. However, this does not mean that in no case will a conflict disallow a named PR from serving. If the named PR has actual hostility towards a beneficiary, or if a dispute will cause unnecessary litigation and impede the estate's administration and other exceptional circumstances exist, a probate court could name another person to serve.

ANGEL RUBEN LOPEZ HERNANDEZ, Appellant, v. ANGEL RAUL LOPEZ HERNANDEZ, ET AL., Appellee. 5th District. Case No. 5D06-1230. Opinion filed January 19, 2007.
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