What Does a Personal Representative Do?
You have no doubt heard the term “personal representative” used in connection with a person’s probate estate. But what does this person actually do? And can anyone do it? Or do you need any sort of special license or training?
Here are some basic answers to these questions:
The Job of the Personal Representative
The personal representative–also known as an “executor” or “administrator” in some states–is basically the person tasked with overseeing a deceased person’s probate estate. This includes a wide variety of tasks, including but not limited to the following:
- locating and gathering all of the assets that belong to the estate;
- safeguard and maintain the estate’s assets during the probate administration process;
- publishing a “notice to creditors” so that any potential claims may be filed against the estate;
- notify the heirs and other potential beneficiaries of the estate of the probate process, in case anyone wishes to file an objection;
- pay any valid debts owed by the deceased person, or object to any improper claims presented;
- file any tax returns due on behalf of the deceased or their estate;
- pay the expenses of administering the estate; and
- distributing the estate’s assets to the designated beneficiaries and ultimately closing the estate.
Of course, the personal representative is not expected or required to perform all of these tasks on their own. The personal representative may hire lawyers, accountants, and other professionals whose services may be required. The cost of employing such persons is considered part of the expenses of administering the estate.
Who May Serve as Personal Representative?
If the deceased left a will, that document will nominate someone to act as personal representative. A Florida judge will appoint the nominated personal representative so long as they are qualified. While an individual does not need any sort of licensing or special training to be a personal representative, to qualify they must either be:
- a close relative of the deceased person, such as spouse, child, or sibling; or
- an adult resident of Florida.
A personal representative also need not be a person. Florida does permit banks and trust companies to serve as personal representatives, provided they are incorporated in Florida or otherwise authorized to exercise “fiduciary powers” within the state.
Also note that if the deceased did not have a will, Florida laws spells out the order of priority for who is entitled to be named personal representative. A person’s spouse usually has top priority, followed by their children. In the event that multiple people are qualified–e.g., the deceased had three children but no surviving spouse–they may decide by majority vote who should serve as personal representative. If there is no consensus, then a judge will decide the matter.
You Always Need a Qualified Probate Attorney
Regardless of who ends up as personal representative, it is always in the estate’s best interests for that person to work with a qualified Fort Myers estate and probate administration lawyer. Even in relatively simple estates, there are a number of legal issues that may require expert advice. So if you find yourself serving as the personal representative for a loved one’s estate and need help, contact the Kuhn Law Firm, P.A., at 239-333-4529 today.