Appointing a personal representative of your estate is a critical part of your estate plan. As your personal representative is responsible for administering your estate plan and ensuring the distribution of your assets according to that plan, you should ensure that you are choosing the most qualified and appropriate person to fill that role. One question that often arises is whether you should consider appointing a person as a personal representative who also is a beneficiary of your estate. An estate planning lawyer at Kramer, Green, Zuckerman, Greene & Buchsbaum, P.A. can evaluate your situation, present the full range of your options, and help you make the best choices for your personal representative.
Under Florida Statutes 733.301 et seq., a personal representative of an estate, as named in your will, also can be a beneficiary of your estate. As long as the person you name as personal representative is either a relative or a Florida resident and physically fit to perform the necessary duties, that person may serve as personal representative (with certain exceptions) regardless of his or her status as an estate beneficiary. However, while this arrangement is common and legally permissible, it can sometimes result in conflicts.
As a fiduciary, a personal representative must always act in the estate’s best interests and all beneficiaries collectively, not exclusively in his or her self-interest. A personal representative who breaches his or her fiduciary duty can be held liable for damages, such as if he or she engages in self-dealing, which can lead to an unfair or unequal distribution of assets among the beneficiaries. For instance, the personal representative may refrain from taking any steps to benefit themselves over other beneficiaries, such as by buying property for less than its market value or withholding information from other beneficiaries to put them at a financial disadvantage.
Potential Conflicts from a Dual Role as Personal Representative and Beneficiary
A personal representative who also is a beneficiary may create a perception of favoritism, whether it is a legitimate claim or not. This perception may lead to disputes between beneficiaries, strained relationships, and resentments between family members.
Objectivity is critical for a personal representative, and it may be difficult for a personal representative to maintain objectivity when he or she is also a beneficiary and is handling matters that affect the finances of multiple family members. A lack of impartiality can lead to significant conflicts and problems that can slow down the estate administration process and cause disputes between family members.
Conflicts or disputes arising from an individual’s dual role as personal representative and beneficiary can cause unnecessary delays in estate administration. As a result, it can take longer for beneficiaries to receive their distribution of assets, which can lead to even more discord and conflicts between the parties.
Suppose you choose to appoint an individual to serve as the personal representative of your estate and name that person as a beneficiary of your estate. In that case, consider whether the individual can do so successfully. For instance, consider whether the individual can act impartially and professionally as a personal representative. You might also determine whether the individual is the best person to serve as your personal representative or whether other family members will disagree with your choice. You might avoid some of these potential conflicts by being upfront with your family members about the contents of your will and estate plan and explaining the rationale behind your decisions. Taking this approach may prevent unexpected revelations following your death that can lead to instant disputes between family members based on claims of favoritism and lack of impartiality.
Contact Our Office Today for Your Estate Planning Needs
At Kramer, Green, Zuckerman, Greene & Buchsbaum, P.A., an estate planning attorney can provide a full range of estate planning services, including assisting you in selecting a personal representative for your estate. We can guide you and your family through the complicated legal landscape of estate planning law as quickly and efficiently as possible. Call us at (954) 966-2112 or learn more about the legal services we can offer you online. Please schedule an appointment to talk to us about your legal needs immediately.