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Who Is Able to File a Florida Wrongful Death Claim?

There is no way to prepare for the unexpected loss of a loved one.  The wrongful death claim exists to protect the estate of the deceased and the deceased’s family.  Florida Wrongful death law is complicated.  A knowledgeable Melbourne, FL attorney should be the one to consult with and decide who is eligible to file the claim in a probate court so that family members can begin to move forward and find the closure they need.

Look to the Surviving Family

As the deceased cannot represent themselves in the court, a personal representative must be appointed.  Rather than invite a family battle in a first come, first serve approach, the court will always look to the surviving family to appoint a representative to act on behalf of the deceased and their estate.   In cases where the deceased left a last will and testament, the recognition of the lawful family member to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased will be outlined there.  This person is recognized as the estate’s personal representative and is the one to file the claim with the Florida probate court.

In the event there was no legal documentation appointing a representative, the court will appoint a third party if there is no surviving spouse or eligible dependent to delegate the responsibility to.

Challenging an Appointed Representative Ruling

It doesn’t happen too often, but the personal representative can be challenged as unsuitable to carry the burden of responsibility by another relative.  The claims may include a conflict of interest or a dispute in which some liability is alleged for the wrongful death.  It may be that the last will and testament was outdated and did not include eligible family members that have a better position to act as representative.

The Role of the Appointed Personal Representative

Some may be under the impression that the personal representative is also the beneficiary of the damages.  This is not always the case.  The beneficiaries are those who receive compensation and may be multiple individuals, including step-children, adoptive siblings, and other supported members designated by a will.  The appointed personal representative will carry the responsibility to handle the financial affairs of the deceased’s estate during the process.  Some of their duties will be:

  • Paying bills
  • Managing properties and accounts
  • Appearing in court
  • Meeting with an attorney in preparation for the claim
  • Carrying out business formalities

The job of a personal representative is a difficult one.  It is time consuming and comes at a vulnerable time as the representative is often someone who was close to the deceased.  Working with a Melbourne, FL area wrongful death attorney can ensure the process goes smoothly and your loved one’s estate is fully represented.