When someone passes away they may leave behind property that becomes part of their “estate”. The estate goes through the probate process in Florida, where the judge will appoint a personal representative to oversee the administration of the estate. The personal representative can be an individual, a bank, or a trust company as long as they meet certain requirements.
In Florida, an individual can be a personal representative if they are:
- Either a Florida resident or a spouse, sibling, parent, child or other close relative of the decedent,
- Over 18 years of age,
- Mentally and physically able to fulfill the duties, and
- Free of felony convictions.
Trust companies, banks or savings and loan companies may be appointed to serve as the personal representative if they are incorporated under Florida Law and authorized to exercise fiduciary powers.
In other states, the personal representative may be known as an executor or administrator of the estate. Whichever term you use, the duties are the same: to administer the probate estate in accordance with state law.
Responsibilities Of The Personal Representative
The personal representative has many responsibilities throughout the Florida probate process. Their primary job is to settle the decedent’s estate. Major responsibilities include:
- Identify and collect the decedent’s probate assets;
- Identify and provide notice to creditors regarding decedent’s passing;
- Pay claims filed against the estate;
- Defend the estate against improper claims;
- File and pay taxes;
- Hire professionals for probate administration (attorneys, accountants, etc.);
- Pay the expenses of administering the estate from estate funds;
- Distribute assets to beneficiaries;
- Close the estate
These are just some of the responsibilities that the personal representative will be asked to perform; there may be other duties, depending on the specifics of the estate.
Why Personal Representatives Need A Probate Attorney
In most cases, Florida law requires an attorney to represent the personal representative in the probate proceeding. Probate attorneys ensure the personal representatives handle the probate process correctly, file necessary documents in Probate court, and also help protect representatives from potential liability. For example, if a personal representative mismanages the probate estate, he or she can be held personally liable for any misconduct or errors. Probate attorneys can help representatives avoid personal liability while still meeting their obligations.
To learn more about the probate services at Overstreet, Miles, Cumbie & Finkenbinder, P.A, contact us at 407.847.5151.