How Delays In Appointing A Personal Representative Can Affect An Estate’s Legal Claims
The appointment of a personal representative is a crucial step in establishing a probate estate’s control over a deceased person’s assets. Keep in mind, probate assets are not just limited to property that was in the decedent’s possession on the date of their death. There may also be monies owed to the decedent that still need to be collected, or legal claims that were pending or about to be brought when death occurred. In any of these cases, a personal representative is needed to “step in” for the decedent. Any delay in securing the appointment of a personal representative may therefore prove costly to the estate and its beneficiaries.
Florida Appeals Court Holds Estate Can Pursue Workers’ Compensation Claims
Consider this recent case from the Florida First District Court of Appeal, Estate of McKenzie v. Hi Rise Crane, Inc. This case involves the estate of a man named McKenzie, who died in August 2018. Prior to his death, McKenzie filed a claim for Florida workers’ compensation benefits against his employer with the Judge of Compensation Claims. Under Florida law, such a petition for benefits (PFB) must be filed within two years of the date of the relevant accident. Here, that was not an issue at first, as McKenzie’s accident occurred just seven months earlier in January 2018.
After McKenzie’s death. his attorney dismissed the workers’ compensation claims. In January 2020, McIntosh’s sister attempted to revive the case. She purported to act as the personal representative of her brother’s estate, although she was not formally appointed to that role until July 2020. McKenzie’s former employer and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier moved to dismiss the sister’s petition on the grounds that she did not comply with Florida law. Specifically, she had no legal authority to file the petition in January 2020 as she was not then the personal representative. The Judge of Compensation Claims agreed with this reading of the law and dismissed the personal representative’s petitions.
On appeal, the First District reversed. The appellate court explained that under Florida law, a personal representative’s powers “relate back in time to give acts by the person appointed, occurring before appointment and beneficial to the estate, the same effect as those occurring after appointment.” In other words, even though the sister “prematurely identified” herself as the personal representative of her brother’s estate in the January 2020 petition, by law once she was appointed personal representative in July she retroactively obtained the authority to file said petition. The estate could therefore proceed with its workers’ compensation claims.
Speak with a Florida Probate Litigation Lawyer Today
The longer it takes to appoint a personal representative, the more time that may be lost to assert certain legal rights on behalf of the estate. That is why if you are involved in a dispute over the qualification or appointment of a personal representative, it is crucial to work with an experienced Pompano Beach estate and trust litigation lawyer who can guide you through the process. Contact attorney Mark R. Manceri today to schedule a consultation.