Convicted Felons Cannot Serve as Personal Representative
It is statutory Florida law that a person is not qualified to act as a personal representative of a decedent’s estate if the person has been convicted of a felony. This is codified in Fla. Stat. 733.303 which states:
733.303 Persons not qualified. —
(1) A person is not qualified to act as a personal representative if the person:
(a) Has been convicted of a felony.
(b) Has been convicted in any state or foreign jurisdiction of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an elderly person or a disabled adult, as those terms are defined in s. 825.101.
(c) Is mentally or physically unable to perform the duties.
(d) Is under the age of 18 years.
(2) If the person named as a personal representative in the will is not qualified, letters shall be granted as provided in s. 733.301.
In a 2016 opinion, the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s denial of a father’s petition for administration of his daughter’s estate. In re Estate of Sharonda Renae Butler, 189 So. 3d 1050 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016).
In Butler, the decedent’s father claimed that he was the sole heir of his daughter, so he should not be disqualified in his daughter’s estate to serve as personal representative.
The trial court disagreed. The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the decision. The father had been convicted of a felony, therefore disqualifying him to serve under the statute.
While from a beneficiary’s standpoint, the father being the only beneficiary, there was no one to object to or be affected by his serving as personal representative, but this thinking overlooks the statute’s bright line rule. The statute seems to be designed to protect creditors and has a consistent result, that an individual who has been convicted of a felony is simply not qualified to serve as a personal representative, under any circumstances.
If faced with the appointment of a personal representative who has been convicted of a felony, there are alternatives, some of which may be directed by the will itself, and about which would be wise to discuss with your trusted probate lawyer.