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PROBATE: What is a Personal Representative?

Simply put, a personal representative is an individual, bank, or trust company appointed by the probate court to administer the decedents probate estate. In many states this person or entity is referred to as an executor.

Once appointed, the personal representative has a legal duty to administer the estate according to Florida Law. The personal representative is responsible for identifying and gathering assets of the estate, use those assets to pay any debts owed by the estate to include paying any taxes due, and distribute remaining assets to the beneficiaries of the estate. Through the process the personal representative can seek the aid of professionals such as attorneys, accountants, appraiser, and investment advisors. The cost of professional services are usually expensed against the assets of the estate.

Florida statutes impose certain restrictions on who can be a personal representative. A personal representative must be a Florida resident unless they are the spouse, sibling, parent, child or other close relative of the decedent. The personal representative must also be over the age of 18, and physically able to perform the duties, and must not be a convicted felon. Lastly, a trust company incorporated under the laws of Florida, or a bank/savings and loan that is qualified and authorized to act as a fiduciary can serve as the personal representative.

The personal representative can be held liable for any waste, or mismanagement of probate assets. That is why it is important to have proper legal assistance if you are a personal representative.

The personal representative is usually named in the will. If there is no will, or the will fails to name a personal representative the court will appoint one. When appointing a personal representative in the absence of a will, the surviving spouse has preference. If the decedent was not married at the time of death, or if the surviving spouse is unwilling or unable, a majority of heirs can select the personal representative. If the majority of heirs cannot agree among themselves, the judge will hold a hearing for the purposes of appointing a personal representative and make a selection.

When drafting your will, you should choose a person that is willing and able to perform the tasks required. Check in with this person and get their consent to list them as the personal representative since the job usually comes with a lot of work. Just in case, it may also be a good idea to name one or two more people as successor personal representatives in the event that the first person you name cannot serve.

At Kendrick Law Group, we understand how overwhelming it can be trying to administer an estate while mourning a loved one. The probate process can be both daunting and complex. The Kendrick Law Group can help you achieve the closure you and your family deserve in the aftermath of a loved one’s passing. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation.

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