Richard v. Richard

Richard v. Richard, ---So.3d --- (Fla. 3d DCA 2016)

This decision deals with the application of the relation back doctrine found in F.S. 733.601, and whether it would apply to validate a notice to creditors that was published one day prior to the appointment of the PR.  The Court interpreted the meaning and history behind F.S. 733.601 and ultimately found that the doctrine does apply to validate the earlier filed notice to creditors.

The probate court had held that the notice to creditors published the day before the order was entered appointing the personal representatives was a nullity, and that the relation back doctrine did not apply to validate the act of publication.  In doing so, it found that a statement of claim filed more than three months after the first publication date was a timely filed the claim.

The Court disagreed with the probate court regarding the application of the relation back doctrine.  F.S. 733.601, which codifies Florida common law on this issue, states as follows:

"The duties and powers of a personal representative commence upon appointment.  The powers of a personal representative relate back in time to give acts by the person appointed, occurring before the appointment and beneficial to the estate, the same effect as those occurring after appointment.  A personal representative may ratify and accept acts on behalf of the estate by others when the acts would have been proper for a personal representative."

The claimant argued that because F.S. 733.601 only says that the powers of a personal representative relate back, the duties of a personal representative, such as the duty to publish a notice to creditors, do not.  The Court disagreed.  It held that it is the acts of the person who is later appointed as personal representative of the estate which are ratified by the statute.  It found that if the statute read that the "powers and duties" related back, it would create unintended consequences for personal representatives who now had a duty to act on behalf of an estate without even being appointed as personal representative yet.  It further found that the publication of a notice to creditors can be viewed as both a duty and a power of the personal representative, such that it falls within the purview of F.S. 733.601.  As a result, it held that the relation back doctrine applied to the personal representative's act of publishing the early notice to creditors.

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