A Personal Representative (also known as “Executor,”) of a decedent’s estate is an individual or institution that is designated to administer the assets owned by someone who has recently passed away. As a fiduciary, a personal representative must work diligently to settle and distribute the decedent’s estate as efficiently as possible by adhering to the instructions outlined in the decedent’s last will and testament and the probate laws and regulations of the state where the estate is being administered, in this case, Florida.
The primary duty of a personal representative is to protect the estate in a way that is consistent with the decedent’s wishes and instructions. Although this may appear to be relatively simple, it is important for the personal representative to understand the responsibilities associated with the position and the potential red flags that must be looked out for. It is important to note that failure to adhere to these duties and responsibilities can and will result in lawsuits against the personal representative of the estate for breach of his or her fiduciary duty.
Generally, a personal representative is responsible for identifying and collecting the assets of the decedent’s estate, preparing an inventory that includes every asset in the estate, keeping the assets protected and safe, acting on behalf of the estate, paying all valid creditor claims against the estate (including all debts and owed taxes), and, finally, distributing the estate assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries. However, the decedent’s will can impose additional duties on the personal representative that may not necessarily be required by law.
Under Florida Law, the personal representative is a fiduciary and is required to act impartially in the best interests of the decedent’s estate and the beneficiaries of that estate. As mentioned above, the personal representative has general responsibilities that include taking possession of the assets of the estate and properly resolve all valid creditor claims against the estate. The personal representative’s final task is to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries according to the decedent’s last will and testament, as long as the decedent’s last wishes do not violate the Florida probate code – which is not always easy. However, prior to taking any action that will have an effect on the assets or the beneficiaries of an estate, the prudent thing to do is to seek authorization from the Florida probate court. Every single action taken by the personal representative of an estate in Florida must be protected by an order issued by the court authorizing such action.
After gathering the assets of the estate, the personal representative is required to file an inventory listing every single one of the assets of the estate and their approximate values with the court. Keep in mind, however, that an inventory of probate assets may be amended after the original filing upon the discovery or receipt of additional estate assets. After the estate has been completely administered, a final accounting reflecting all receipts and disbursements of the estate throughout the entirety of the probate proceeding must be filed by the personal representative with the court and served on all persons with interests in the estate.
Unless restricted by a decedent’s will or by Florida law, a personal representative usually has the power to sell estate assets, including real estate. The prudent thing to do is to obtain an order from the court authorizing such an action prior to taking it.
Once all of the assets are identified, gather and inventoried, and all creditor claims are properly satisfied, the personal representative must distribute the estate assets in accordance with the terms of the will and Florida probate laws. After this step, once the court approves the final accounting and the assets have been effectively distributed to the beneficiaries, the estate is finally considered “closed.” At this point, the job of the personal representative is done.
A personal representative will receive compensation from the estate for his or her services, and such compensation is typically based on a percentage of the total value of the estate.
If you are a personal representative dealing with the probate administration of an estate in Florida, you must seek the help of an experienced Florida Probate Attorney to assist you, guide you, and represent you throughout the entire process.
At our Miami Probate Law Firm, Jurado & Farshchian, P.L., you will find the right lawyer for your case no matter where you are in Florida. To learn more about our services for personal representatives, call us today at (305) 921-0440 or send us an email to Probate@JFLawFirm.com.