Representative Capacity versus Individual Capacity

Although it may seem unnecessarily complicated, the capacity in which a party is named in a suit matters significantly. For example, in what capacity a party is joined frequently arises in the probate litigation context.

“Proceeding in a representative capacity is different than proceeding as an individual.” Singer v. Siedband, 138 S.W.3d 750, 755 (Mo. Ct. App. 2004). Certain claims must be brought in a representative capacity only. To illustrate, a personal representative of a decedent’s estate “occupies a fiduciary role in regard to the assets of the estate and the interests therein of those claiming through the decedent.” Estate of Munzert, 887 S.W.2s 764, 767 (Mo. Ct. App. 1994). Accordingly, to vindicate an estate’s interest, that claim must generally be brought by a personal representative; it would be improper for that same person — even though it is the same actual person — to bring the claim individually because he or she does not have the legal authority to act on behalf of an estate while wearing that separate “hat.”

Accordingly, it is important to ensure that parties are named in a proper capacity in litigation.

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