When Florida residents die without a will, their estate must go through the probate process. As part of this process, a personal representative is appointed. A personal representative is typically a close family member, but it may also be an institution, such as a bank.
In its most basic terms, a personal representative handles your estate administration and sorts out all aspects of your property and finances after you die. They collect information and prepare an inventory of your property, assets and debts.
A personal representative is also responsible for paying off any debts or taxes you owed prior to death. This can be the most complicated task of a personal representative. A search for all known creditors must be undertaken. Once a complete list is available, a notice to the creditors must be published in a local newspaper. This is called a “Notice to Creditors.”
Additionally, a “Notice of Administration” must be served on anyone who may have a claim to a portion of the state. The intent of this notice is to make these individuals aware that the estate is going to be administered and allow them a chance to lodge objections to the administration. There is usually a time frame for them to do so.
Once these steps are completed, the filed creditor claims must be researched to determine if they are valid. The personal representative is then responsible for paying any valid claims.
A final tax return must be filed on behalf of the deceased individual. The personal representative files the final tax return and pays off any remaining tax debt. Finally, a personal representative is responsible for paying any costs associated with the probate administration and closing out the probate estate.
This is just a brief overview of the responsibilities of a personal representative. The duties can be complex and confusing. Personal representatives can often benefit from the guidance of an experienced probate attorney.