When Siblings Can’t Agree on Estate Decisions
Acting as personal representative is a big responsibility, and there are a littany of reasons a sibling may be disqualified from serving in such a capacity. Unfortunately, even if qualified to act in such a capacity, when adult children are empowered to make decisions that could affect their own inheritances, they may be tempted to abuse their positions for self-gain.
Even if the personal representative does not violate their fiduciary duty to advocate the estate’s best interests, or is otherwise disqualified from acting in such a role, they might not be suited for the role for various reasons.
- A sibling might believe they understand their parents’ last wishes better than their brothers and sisters.
- The personal representative might not treat other beneficiaries with the respect they deserve.
- The personal representative might mismanage their parent’s assets, losing money on investments that should have been passed on to their beneficiaries.
- They might try to increase the size of their own inheritance by withholding critical information or misappropriating valuable assets.
If you, or a loved one, feel that your sibling is not responsibly managing a beloved parent’s estate, you could file a petition to have them removed from their position. However, before taking such a drastic step, you could explore alternatives for a more amicable resolution.
Challenging a Personal Representative’s Competency in Florida Probate
If you believe that your sibling has failed to competently manage your parent’s estate, you could challenge their authority by requesting:
- An explanation of inventory asset values. The personal representative is required to file an inventory detailing and valuing all assets in the probate estate. Upon written request, certain beneficiaries can obtain an explanation of how the assets were valued, and if a formal appraisal was obtained. This can be useful in determining whether assets are being intentionally under or overvalued in a manner that may be advantageous to the personal representative.
- Mediation. Mediation is an out-of-court alternative to probate litigation. In mediation, the beneficiaries will have the opportunity to speak with their sibling, discuss their feelings, and ask a trained professional—the mediator—to propose a fair solution to any outstanding disagreements.
- Removal. The court of its' own volition can remove a personal representative. Otherwise, only “interested persons” can petition the court to remove the personal representative. In Florida, “interested persons” can include the estate’s beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors, as well as other parties. However, since the Sunshine State’s probate courts strive to respect the decedent’s last wishes, they may be reluctant to remove the personal representative without compelling evidence of misconduct.
How to Petition the Court to Remove a Personal Representative
Once you have established that you have the proper standing to petition for the personal representative’s removal, you may:
- Collect evidence of the personal representative’s alleged misconduct. This could include both documentary evidence and eyewitness testimony.
- File a Petition for Removal in the court where probate proceedings are underway.
- Attend court-ordered hearings if necessary.
- Discuss options for a potential out-of-court settlement.
- Prepare for trial if mediation or another amicable resolution is not possible.
However, seeking the removal of a personal representative could pose a significant risk to the estate’s finances. Typically, the personal representative has the right to use the estate’s resources to defend themselves—and their decisions—in court. Even if you have a compelling claim, your sibling could still exhaust the estate’s assets in litigation.
Contact an Experienced Probate Litigation Attorney Today
Challenging a sibling’s position as a personal representative could prove difficult, especially if they are unwilling to accommodate their family’s feelings and alter their behavior. However, since probate litigation is a high-stakes undertaking, you need to be prepared for the possibility of your brother or sister putting up stiff resistance—potentially at the cost of your own inheritance.
Before filing a Petition for Removal, speak to an experienced probate litigation attorney to explore your options. Please send DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis P.A. a message online with our contact form or call 727-777-6842 today to schedule your consultation.