Administering estates involving complex circumstances often result in disputes between an executor and a beneficiary. Larger estates with multiple beneficiaries tend to be a hard task for executors due to the overwhelming number of demands.
Can an executor override a beneficiary in Florida probate administration? Read on to find out.
Executor’s Duties vs. Rights of Beneficiaries – The Fundamentals
Executors are individuals named in the decedent’s will or selected in court to administer a decedent’s estate subject to formal probate administration. Also referred to as personal representatives, executors are fiduciaries.
As fiduciaries, executors can only act in the best interest of the decedent’s estate and its beneficiaries. A beneficiary is a person entitled to someone’s assets or money through a designation in a will, trust, life insurance policy, or other legal instruments.
If the executor fails to fulfill his or her fiduciary duty, a beneficiary can request court intervention to adjudicate the demand.
Can an Executor Override a Beneficiary in Florida? – As Provided by Law
Florida Statutes §733.602 (1) specifies that “a personal representative shall use the authority conferred by this code, the authority in the will, if any, and the authority of any order of the court, for the best interests of interested persons, including creditors.”
Some beneficiaries may complain about an executor not communicating certain decisions or asking for their consent to make specific decisions. It is fundamental to understand that an executor receives authority from the court to administer and distribute the decedent’s estate.
As long as the executor is not breaking the law or failing to act in the best interest of the estate, he or she is allowed to make unilateral decisions.
In most cases, the executor is an individual appointed in the decedent’s will. If the decedent’s will does not appoint anyone or the person selected does meet the statutory requirements, the court is responsible for appointing an executor.
In either case, the person named as the executor is presumed to have the qualifications and skills to administer the estate.
Can Executor Make Decisions Without a Court Order?
Once the court issues Letters of Administration, the executor is officially in charge of handling the decedent’s estate.
Florida Statutes §733.603 provides that “a personal representative shall proceed expeditiously with the settlement and distribution of a decedent’s estate and, except as otherwise specified by this code or ordered by the court, shall do so without adjudication, order, or direction of the court.”
The same statute adds that “a personal representative may invoke the jurisdiction of the court to resolve questions concerning the estate or its administration.” An executor is prohibited to:
- Change beneficiaries
- Change the shares of interest or inherited assets
- Withhold a beneficiary’s inheritance (unless expressly authorized in the will)
- Fail to follow the terms of the will
- Fail to uphold his or her fiduciary duty
- Interpreting ambiguous language in the decedent’s will
As detailed by Florida Statutes §733.602 (2), “a personal representative shall not be liable for any act of administration or distribution if the act was authorized at the time. Subject to other obligations of administration, a probated will is authority to administer and distribute the estate according to its terms.”