The role of a personal representative (also known as an executor) is critical to settling a deceased’s estate. Whether you are attempting to finalize your estate plan or have recently been named as a personal representative for someone’s estate, you will need to understand the duties of this position.
An estate’s personal representative is responsible for settling the affairs of a decedent. This may sound simple and straightforward, but this role is often time-consuming and complex. To further complicate matters, Florida law has stipulations and requirements for who can serve as a personal representative of a probate estate.
Who Can be Appointed as a Personal Representative?
As a general rule, a personal representative must meet the following qualifications:
- Be at least 18 years old;
- Be related to the decedent or be a resident of Florida;
- Not be a convicted felon; and
- Be capable of fulfilling the role, both mentally and physically.
The simplest appointment process occurs when a personal representative, sometimes referred to as an estate executor or administrator, is named in a last will and testament. The court will most likely honor this designation and appoint the chosen representative. However, in situations where no one was named in a will or no will exists, the probate court will appoint someone to fill the role.
There is an order of preference when a judge appoints a personal representative, in both of these scenarios. For this reason, among many others, working with an experience probate legal professionals allows you to prepare for the multitude of scenarios and contingencies that may occur.
What Does a Personal Representative Do?
The role of a personal representative is so crucial because they are responsible for every aspect of settling the decedent’s estate. If you are named as a personal representative, you will be expected to uphold a significant fiduciary duty. This means that you will be given an ethical and legal responsibility to carry out the wishes of the decedent.
You will have to provide updates to heirs and beneficiaries, notify banks and other creditors of the decedent’s passing, pay any necessary taxes, identify and distribute assets, and file documents with the probate court. Keep in mind that this list is not all-inclusive, and the specific duties you will have as an estate personal representative will depend on the size and complexity of the estate.
Working with an experienced Florida probate attorney can relieve some of this burden, as many people feel overwhelmed by the vast number of tasks and responsibilities.
What If the Decedent Didn’t Have a Will?
If your loved one passed prior to creating a will, or their will is determined to be invalid, their estate will go through a process known as intestate succession. Florida statutes stipulate the preferences and order of who will inherit in case of intestacy. These rules are complex and have many exceptions and caveats, but in most cases either a surviving spouse or child will have priority appointment as the personal representative of the deceased’s estate.
If you would like to discuss the qualifications and duties of a personal representative from the context of your personal circumstances, you can schedule a free consultation with Farshchian Law, P.A. Call us at (305) 901-5628 or (239) 935-8599, or send an email to Info@JFRealEstateLaw.com. We provide probate and estate services throughout the entire State of Florida.