In previous posts on this blog, we have discussed numerous ways that a person might prevent fights among family members during probate by having a clear, enforceable estate plan in place.
However, when that person passes away, there is nothing more he or she can do to stop family members and loved ones from arguing. In some cases, though, a personal representative can be in a position to prevent disputes among beneficiaries. Below, we look at a few ways a personal representative might minimize contention between parties during the difficult probate process.
Take Your Role and Responsibilities Seriously: As noted in Florida statutes, a personal representative has numerous duties, which he or she must take seriously. For instance, the representative should be prepared to collect assets quickly and notify beneficiaries promptly so that there is less time for doubt and confusion, which is often the spark that ignites a major feud. If family members feel like a representative is not acting quickly enough or doing what needs to be done, they can get angry, frustrated, and distrusting.
Comply with The Wishes of The Decedent: As a personal representative, you are tasked with settling a person’s affairs, and you have a duty to act in his or her best interests. Complying with the wishes of the decedent can guide you through difficult decisions, and prioritizing your duty as a fiduciary can minimize any doubts about your actions.
Ask for Help if You Need It: Serving as a personal representative is a difficult, tedious job that many people have never performed before. It is easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated in this role. However, rather than trying to navigate the complexities of probate alone, which can lead to delays and mistakes that trigger fights among loved ones, you can reach out for help from an estate planning attorney.
While it is not necessarily a personal representative’s job to keep people from fighting, taking a few steps to do so can make the probate process easier. But again, if you have any questions or concerns regarding the obligations of a personal representative, it can be wise to consult an attorney before making any costly missteps that could potentially spiral into contentious family battles.