When is a curator necessary? Wait, what is a curator?
If the person appointed to be the personal representative of the estate is challenged due to a prior offense or conduct regarding the estate’s assets, then oftentimes the appointment of a curator is warranted.
A curator is defined as someone who ‘is appointed by the probate court to take charge of the estate until a letter of administration is issued’ (Fla. Stat. §731.201). The letter of administration is the document that appoints a personal representative by name. Curators are neutral and appointed temporarily to handle the estate in place of a personal representative. Occasionally, probate attorneys will request a curator to be appointed while there is a pending disagreement over the qualifications of a nominated personal representative.
This was put into place during Gordin v. Estate of Maisel, 2015 WL 7566353 (Fla. 4th DCA). In this case, the Will nominated the grandson to serve as the personal representative but one of the biological children of the descendant petitioned to revoke the appointment of the grandson and appoint a curator while other issues were resolved in probate court. The beneficiaries favored a curator in place of the grandson. The probate court held a hearing and appointed a curator to administer the Will, failing to revoke the appointment of the grandson as personal representative.
Because of this, the grandson filed an appeal stating that the probate court made a mistake by appointing the curator because it gave two different people equal powers. The appellate court came to the conclusion that there is minimal guidance to outline the situations in which a curator should be appointed. They did claim that it was clear with one specific case, In re Estate of Miller, 568 So.2d 487 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990), in which the court stated the typical situation to appoint a curator is when there is a delay in appointing a personal representative and someone needs to take charge of the administration of the Will.
In the Gordin case, there was not a delay and a personal representative (the grandson) had already been appointed. They upheld the fact that the probate court should have removed or suspended the grandson as the personal representative to avoid confusion about who actually holds the power. Due to the fact that the court should not have granted parallel power to the personal representative and curator, the appellate court reversed the court order that allowed the appointment of the curator.
The Gordin case is a perfect demonstration of the value an experienced probate attorney brings to the table for each and every estate administration. Even the smallest detail or an inconvenient timing of an event can have a very large impact and long-term effects on the administration of an estate.
If you have any question on curator or personal representative powers and duties, call Bedy Law for a free consultation at (727) 308-0529.