While it is prudent for people with substantial assets to draft wills and appoint personal representatives of their estates to handle their affairs after they depart, doing so does not always mean that no conflicts will arise after they die. For example, a personal representative’s interests may be adverse to those of the estate, which may require the court to appoint an administrator ad litem. In a recent Florida opinion, a court discussed the purpose of appointing an administrator ad litem in a matter in which the decedent’s daughter and wife disputed how the estate should be handled. If you have questions regarding the administration of an estate, it is in your best interest to meet with a seasoned Florida estate planning attorney regarding your options.
History of the Case
It is reported that the decedent died in 2019, leaving behind a substantial estate that included ownership interests in a business and an art collection, both of which were valued at over $30 million. The plaintiff, who was the second wife of the decedent, was named personal representative of the estate. In 2020, the decedent’s daughter filed a petition for the appointment of an administrator ad litem, citing concerns that the plaintiff had a conflict of interest as the personal representative and challenging certain transfers that were made in the last months of the decedent’s life when he was suffering from dementia.
Allegedly, the plaintiff filed a motion asking the court to declare the proceedings adversarial in nature. The court rejected her reasoning and appointed an administrator, and the plaintiff appealed, arguing the appointment was too broad and that the court erred in finding the proceedings were not adversarial.
Appointing an Administrator Ad Litem in Florida Probate Matters
Florida Probate Rule 5.120 allows courts to appoint an administrator ad litem to represent an estate in a specific probate proceeding when the interests of the personal representative are or may be adverse to those of the estate or the need otherwise arises. An administrator ad litem may be appointed in matters in which the personal representative’s adverse interest does not interfere with the administration of the estate as a whole and, as such, does not warrant the removal of the representative.
In the subject case, the appellate court found that the allegations against the plaintiff suggested significant breaches of her fiduciary duty and a clear conflict between her interests and those of the estate. Thus, the appellate court found that the trial court properly appointed an administrator ad litem to handle those matters in which there was a conflict.
Speak to a Dedicated Florida Attorney
The interests of estate administrators do not always align with a decedent’s wishes, but the law allows beneficiaries to take steps to ensure an estate is handled properly. If you need help with a probate matter, it is smart to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The Florida lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. are dedicated to helping people protect their interests with regard to estate administration, and if you hire us, we will work diligently on your behalf. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at 800-283-7442 to set up a meeting.