What Happens When a Personal Representative or Trustee Fails to Follow a Florida Probate Court’s Orders?
When someone agrees to serve as the personal representative of a Florida probate estate, they assume certain legal obligations. This includes following any orders or directions given by the probate court. Failure to follow the court’s orders can lead to the personal representative’s removal and potential liability for breach of fiduciary duties.
Florida Judge Removes Daughter from Control Over Father’s Estate and Trust
An ongoing Florida probate dispute, Gnaegy v. Morris, provides a case in point. This case involves litigation between two sisters, Donna and Debra, over their late father’s probate estate and revocable trust. The father died in 2019. His will named Donna as personal representative of his estate. Concurrently, his trust also named Donna as successor trustee. The father left substantial assets, including several bank accounts, his home, an IRA, a six-acre farm, and shares of stock in a company partially owned by Donna and her husband, as well as a loan receivable from that company.
According to Donna, she hired her father’s attorneys and accountant to assist her in her duties as personal representative and trustee. But she largely failed to comply with the various orders entered by the probate court with respect to the estate. This prompted her sister, Debra, to file an adversary proceeding in the probate court. Debra accused her sister of violating her fiduciary duties under her father’s will and trust and asked the probate court to remove Donna from both roles. Debra also asked the judge to award monetary damages for the alleged breaches.
The probate court granted Debra summary judgment on the issue of breach of fiduciary duty. In short, the court agreed that Donna had not carried out her court-ordered responsibilities to administer the estate or the trust. The court therefore appointed Debra to serve as the new personal representative and trustee. The court further reserved a decision on monetary damages.
Donna appealed. She argued the evidence did not support the probate court’s decision to remove her as personal representative and trustee. The Florida Third District Court of Appeal disagreed and upheld the probate judge’s order. The appellate court cited multiple examples from the record of Donna’s failure to discharge her duties, such as failing to file an inventory of estate assets, using her father’s credit card, not filing tax returns for the estate, and not placing the estate’s liquid assets in a court depository as required by state law. The Third District said there were similar examples of Donna failing to perform her duties as trustee. As such, her removal from both positions was necessary to “serve the interests of the beneficiaries” of both the estate and the trust.
Contact Florida Breach of Fiduciary Duty Lawyer Mark R. Manceri Today
Raising a claim of breach of fiduciary duty is a serious matter. As the case above illustrates, it can lead to the removal of a fiduciary from that role and expose them to potential personal liability. So if you need legal advice or assistance from an experienced Pompano Beach trust and estate litigation attorney, contact the offices of Mark R. Manceri, P.A. today to schedule a consultation.