We have blogged at length regarding the decision-making role of estate Personal Representatives with regard to the allocation of monetary proceeds recovered from at-fault parties and under/uninsured motorist insurance. Where the amount recovered is less than the full measure of damages, disputes often arise between creditors and the decedent’s survivors over the PR’s allocation decisions. When those disputes cannot be resolved by agreement, the courts must decide. While Florida’s Wrongful Death Act does not articulate preferences, our experience shows that courts tend to side with survivors in close cases.
In re Estate of Wiggins, 720 So. 2d 523 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999) is the seminal allocation case. It involved six adult surviving children and various creditors (owed a total of $26,000), including Indian River Memorial Hospital, vying over a $100,000 settlement. The matter was forced to trial, where the trial court agreed with the PR’s allocation which left creditors with nothing. The lower court’s ruling was upheld on appeal.