Relation Back Doctrine

Relation Back Doctrine

The recent case of Estate of McKenzie through McIntosch v. High Rise Crane, Inc., 326 So. 3d 1161 (Fla. 1st DCA 2021) emphasized that a personal representative’s powers relate back and have the same effect as those occurring after a personal representative’s appointment. 

Specifically, the First District looked at the “relation back doctrine” as set forth in Fla. Stat. 733.601, which 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.

In this case, the nominated personal representative filed a workman’s compensation petition for benefits, on behalf of her deceased brother, prior to being appointed as the personal representative of his estate.

The Judge of Compensation Claims dismissed her petition, because at the time she filed the petition, she was not the appointed personal representative.

The First District reversed, relying on Cunningham v. Florida Dep’t of Child. & Fams., 782 So. 2d 913, 916 (Fla. 1st DCA 2001)(further citations omitted), where the court 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,” Id. at 916 (further quotation omitted).

Therefore, if you are looking to be appointed as personal representative, but have not yet been issued letters of administration from the probate court, you should speak with your trusted probate lawyer about your actions (and preferably prior to taking any actions), to confirm and assure you are within the scope of your fiduciary duties and in compliance with Fla. Stat. 733.601.