In Florida, after a person passes on, the final affairs of their estate and its division between heirs go through a probate court. The person legally in charge of estate matters is called the personal representative (PR).
The personal representative can begin executing the instructions in the deceased person’s will once a Florida Probate Court issues Letters of Administration, a legal document putting the personal representative in charge of administering the estate.
What exactly does a personal representative do? Gary M. Landau, a probate attorney in Coral Springs, Florida, offers some helpful information.
Can Anyone Serve as a Personal Representative in Florida?
Any mentally and physically capable adult named in the decedent’s will who satisfies the requirements of the state of Florida can serve as a personal representative, except for convicted felons.
If the deceased person did not specify a personal representative in their will or died intestate (with no will), a majority of the estate’s beneficiaries choose the representative, which must be approved by the probate court. Can out-of-state residents serve as personal representatives?
Persons residing outside Florida can usually serve as PRs if they are related to the decedent. Common examples include children, siblings, nephews or nieces, and other relatives.
A Personal Representative’s Responsibilities
A personal representative must comply with the requirements of the probate process in Florida, which includes tracking down the decedent’s assets, notifying creditors, and paying off estate debt.
Will execution is a significant responsibility: Any mismanagement of a deceased person’s estate (such as neglecting to pay debts or taxes) can make a personal representative liable for damages the beneficiaries sustain.
Here is a detailed specification of the tasks a personal representative will carry out.
1. Locating Probate Assets
A probate asset is any property that had belonged solely to the deceased person. Examples include the decedent’s home, personal valuables, vehicles, and bank and investment accounts with no named beneficiaries. Jointly owned property or bank accounts that name beneficiaries are examples of assets that do not need to be probated.
A decedent’s personal representative typically works with a probate lawyer to open the probate, assemble relevant legal documents, review the decedent’s assets, notify creditors and heirs, and open an estate account for paying off debts, taxes, and legal fees.
2. Notifying the Deceased Person’s Creditors
According to Florida law, the decedent’s PR must let any potential creditors know that the deceased person’s estate is open under a probate process. The representative may contact the creditors directly, but probate requirements also involve giving a formal notice in a newspaper in the decedent’s county of residence. The notice must appear at least once a week for two consecutive weeks.
Creditors typically have three months from the first notice to file claims against the decedent’s estate.
3. Inventorying the Estate
To determine the estate’s net worth, the decedent’s personal representative must make an inventory of all countable assets, including real estate and vehicles, personal valuables, bank and investment accounts, and stocks and bonds. The personal representative will share this detailed list with the probate court and all beneficiaries.
4. Paying Valid Debts
Three months after giving due notice to the deceased person’s creditors, the personal representative has to pay off any valid estate debts. To this end, the representative must use liquid assets from the estate account. If cash is unavailable, it may be necessary to sell estate property to obtain funds.
Any claims that creditors make after these three months will not count as valid.
5. Paying Taxes and Consolidating Records
If the estate reaches the high threshold for paying a federal estate tax, the personal representative must file and pay applicable taxes within an officially designated timeframe.
6. Closing the Estate
Once all debts are paid, the estate distributes all remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will.
At that point, the representative files a petition with the probate court officially asking for release from his or her fiduciary position. Once the probate court approves the petition, the estate closes, and the probate case ends.
Gary M. Landau, P.A.: Experienced Probate Attorney in Coral Springs, FL
Do you need help with any matters related to probates, wills, and trusts, or real estate closings in Florida? Get in touch with the LAW OFFICE OF GARY M. LANDAU, P.A., a longstanding probate attorney.
Gary M. Landau has over 25 years of experience in probates, wills and trusts, and real estate closings in Florida. Call (954) 979-6566 today to schedule a consultation at no cost. The law office sees clients in person, by phone, or by Zoom.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.