When an individual dies with or without a will (referred to in legal terminology as a “decedent”), someone must be appointed to administer the decedent’s estate. In a typical case, this person is known as a “personal representative.” The personal representative will either be named in the decedent’s will; or, if there is no will (or if the will is silent), the probate court will appoint a person, bank, or trust company to serve as the personal representative for the estate.
While this works in most cases, occasionally, issues can arise. For example, what if the decedent’s designated personal representative fails to meet his or her duties? Or, what if there is a dispute over who the court should appoint as personal representative? In these situations, the probate court may appoint a “curator” to administer the estate until any outstanding issues with the personal representative can be resolved.
When the Florida Probate Courts Will Appoint a Curator
Florida’s curator statute appears in Section 733.501 of the Florida Probate Code. It reads:
When it is necessary, the court may appoint a curator after formal notice to the person apparently entitled to letters of administration. The curator may be authorized to perform any duty or function of a personal representative. If there is great danger that any of the decedent’s property is likely to be wasted, destroyed, or removed beyond the jurisdiction of the court and if the appointment of a curator would be delayed by giving notice, the court may appoint a curator without giving notice.
Situations where it may be “necessary” for the probate court to appoint a curator include those described above. Likewise, if a personal representative resigns, the probate court may need to appoint a curator to administer the estate until a new personal representative can be appointed to take over administration of the estate.
The Curator’s Roles and Responsibilities
As noted in the statutory language, once appointed by the court, a curator will have the same duties as a personal representative. These duties include:
- Identifying, valuing, and safeguarding the decedent’s assets subject to probate
- Conducting a search to identify “known or reasonably ascertainable” creditors and notify them of the probate proceedings
- Publishing the Notice to Creditors and serving Notices of Administration
- Paying valid claims against the estate
- Objecting to improper claims against the estate
- Filing tax returns and paying taxes on behalf of the estate
- Distributing probate assets to beneficiaries
- Closing the probate estate
- Hiring attorneys, accountants, appraisers, investment advisors, and other professionals to assist in administering the estate
Since curators have the same duties as personal representatives, they are subject to removal on the same grounds as personal representatives as well. These include, among others: waste of estate assets, conflicts of interest, and lack of qualification.
Speak with a Probate Lawyer at Beller & Bustamante, P.L.
If you have questions about the probate process or any issues involving a curator or personal representative, Beller & Bustamante, P.L. is here to help. Attorneys Rebeccah Beller and Mina Bustamante provide compassionate, experienced legal guidance for individuals involved in probate matters throughout the greater Jacksonville area. To schedule a consultation, please call (904) 288-4414 or send us a message online.