Estate of McKenzie v. Hi Rise Crane, Inc.
326 So. 3d 1161 (Fla. 2d DCA 2021)
This case is one which demonstrates the application of the “relation back” doctrine, which may arise in cases when a personal representative for an estate is not appointed promptly.
In this First District Court of Appeal opinion from 2021, the court analyzed the “relation back doctrine” of Fla. Stat. 733.601, providing that a personal representative’s powers “relate back in time to give acts by the person appointed, occurring before appointment and beneficial to the estate, the same effect as those occurring after appointment.”
The facts were as follows: in January of 2020, the nominated personal representative filed a worker’s compensation petition for benefits on behalf of her deceased brother (seeking to revive a claim he had filed for an accident prior to his death), prior to her appointment as personal representative. She was subsequently appointed in July 2020 as the personal representative. The Judge of Compensation Claims dismissed her petition because she was not the personal representative when she filed the petition.
On appeal, the First District reversed, relying on Cunningham v. Florida Dep’t of Child. & Fams., 782 So. 2d 913, 916 (Fla. 1st DCA 2001) which held that “it follows, from the fact that the plaintiff can amend to reflect his capacity as personal representative, that claims which are properly recoverable by the personal representative…will also relate back.” (further and internal citations omitted). Even though she identified herself “prematurely” as the personal representative, she retroactively obtained the authority to file the petition and therefore the estate could proceed with the workers’ compensation claims after all.
Florida Statute 733.601, the “relation back” doctrine, states:
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 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 done by others when the acts would have been proper for a personal representative.
Certain legal rights can be lost if a personal representative is not promptly appointed, and this is why it is important to determine who should be appointed together with your trusted probate lawyer and seek to have that person promptly appointed.