When an estate goes through probate in Florida, one party has to be responsible for certain estate administration tasks. If the deceased person left a valid will, they appointed a personal representative to oversee the administration. (In other states, this role is known as an executor. Florida uses the term “personal representative.”) If they did not leave a will, or if the chosen representative can’t do it for some reason, the court appoints a personal representative.
Who can serve as personal representative?
The personal representative can be a bank or a trust company, but often it is typically a relative of the deceased. To be appointed, the representative must have been closely related to the deceased, such as a spouse, a sibling, a child, a parent or other close relative. There are other eligibility requirements, and probate courts are especially strict about personal representatives who are not residents of Florida. In cases where there was no will, the court usually appoints the person’s surviving spouse as the personal representative. If the person was not married at the time of their death, the court will appoint another potential heir.
However they end up in the role, the personal representative has a long list of responsibilities. Among other things, they must:
- Inventory the assets and debts
- Publish a notice to creditors in a local newspaper
- Conduct a search to find creditors
- Pay valid claims
- File and pay taxes
- Distribute assets to heirs
- Close the estate
Many of these tasks are complicated, and they can be tricky even in the best of times, not to mention at a point when many personal representatives are still actively grieving the loss of a loved one. For these and other reasons, it is important for personal representatives to seek out help from attorneys who have experience with probate administration.