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The Role of the Personal Representative in Florida

November 16, 2020 CSBB Blog

If you have ever been involved in an estate proceeding, you may have heard the terms “executor,” “administrator,” or the feminine versions of these terms (executrix or administratrix). However, in Florida, the name used for this role is the “personal representative.” In short, the personal representative is the person appointed by the court to oversee the administration or probate of the decedent’s estate. As such, the personal representative plays a critical role in winding up the decedent’s affairs. 

Many disputes revolve around the personal representative’s actions, so understanding their role is important. Whether you are a beneficiary or have been named as a personal representative in someone’s estate, a Palm Beach County estate attorney can help you navigate what can be a complicated situation. 

Who Can Serve as the Personal Representative? 

Generally speaking, Florida law has four requirements to be eligible to serve as a personal representative: 

  • They must be at least 18 years old;
  • They must be a resident of Florida or related to the decedent by blood, marriage, or adoption;
  • They must be physically and mentally capable of serving as the personal representative; and
  • They have never been convicted of a felony.  

Anyone who meets these criteria may serve as a personal representative. However, please note that a bank or trust company incorporated in Florida and authorized to exercise fiduciary powers can also serve as a personal representative of a decedent’s estate. 

Appointment of the Personal Representative

As mentioned above, the personal representative of the estate will be appointed by the court. However, this can mean very different things depending on the situation: 

  • If the decedent died with a will, the court would appoint the personal representative named in the will, provided that they are legally qualified to serve as laid out above. 
  • If the decedent died without a will, the court would take on a larger role in making the appointment. The surviving spouse has the first right to serve as the personal representative. If the spouse declines to serve or if there is no surviving spouse, then the heirs who represent the majority interest can select who shall serve as the personal representative. If the heirs cannot agree, then the judge will appoint a personal representative after a hearing. 

As you can see, the situation is far more complicated if the decedent dies without a will. If you are concerned that a loved one may not have a will, our Palm Beach County estate attorney can help them draft a simple will that meets their needs and protects their family. 

The Duties of the Personal Representative in Florida

Serving as the personal representative carries significant responsibility. They have a fiduciary duty to administer the estate according to the terms of the decedent’s will and in compliance with Florida law. This commonly includes taking the following actions: 

  • Notifying all heirs and other interested parties that the will is being submitted to probate
  • Identifying and taking control of any estate assets
  • Filing tax returns and paying taxes
  • Paying creditors claims
  • Managing any assets such as investments or real estate while the will is being administered
  • Selling assets to satisfy claims against the estate
  • Filing all necessary documents and other paperwork with the court
  • Distributing assets to the heirs 
  • Preparing and submitting a final accounting to the court

Most personal representatives will work with an estate administration attorney to help them through the process. Otherwise, the process would be far too burdensome for most laypeople. An experienced Palm Beach County estate attorney can help you avoid disputes and save time and money. 

Contact a Palm Beach County Estate Attorney Today

Estate administration is more complicated than many people expect. Whether you have been named as a personal representative or are one of the heirs, the attorneys at Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun can help. To schedule an appointment, call us toll-free at 800-226-1484 or send us an email to discuss your issues.

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