When a person dies owning property within the state of Florida, the decedent’s estate must undergo probate. If the estate is formally administered by the probate court, the judge will appoint a personal representative to execute the estate subject to probate.
Keep reading to find out the duties and responsibilities of a personal representative in Florida. For further legal guidance, call Jurado and Associates, P.A. at (305) 921-0976.
What Are the Duties of a Personal Representative in Florida According to Law?
In order to make it easier for you to understand the duties of a personal representative, we have listed the 19 most usual responsibilities during the administration of a probate case.
#1 – Taking on the Appointment
In Florida, a person or entity officially becomes a personal representative when appointed by a court. Accordingly, the probate judge issues Letters of Administration to grant the executor authority to act on the estate’s behalf. This is one of the most important duties of a personal representative in Florida.
#2 – File for Resignation If Not Qualified
Serving as a personal representative requires the fulfillment of specific requirements, which include:
- To be 18 years or older
- To be mentally and physically capable to fulfill the role
- To be a resident of Florida, or
- To be decedent’s spouse, sibling, parent, child, or another close family relative (regardless of residence)
In case someone to be appointed as a personal representative knows (or finds out later in the process) that he/she is not qualified to fulfill the role, it is mandatory to immediately file for resignation.
#3 – Provide Post-Resignation Accounting
As provided by state law (Fla. Stat. §733.5036), “a resigning personal representative shall file and serve a final accounting of the personal representative’s administration.” Once the requirements established by law are properly satisfied, the personal representative shall be discharged.
#4 – Provide Detailed Accounting Upon Discharge
Florida Statutes §733.504 provides that “a personal representative shall be removed, and the letters revoked if he or she was not qualified to act at the time of appointment.” Upon discharge, Florida Statutes §733.508 establishes that “a removed personal representative “shall file and serve a final accounting of that personal representative’s administration.”
#5 – Surrendering Any Assets Upon Removal
Additionally, Florida Statutes §733.509 states that “the removed personal representative shall immediately deliver all estate assets, records, documents, papers, and other property of or concerning the estate in the removed personal representative’s possession or control to the remaining personal representative or successor fiduciary.”
#6 – Upholding the Required Standard of Care
Similar to trustees, personal representatives have a fiduciary duty to care when handling an estate subject to probate in Florida. Accordingly, the personal representative must use the authority conferred by law, the authority granted by the decedent’s last will (if any), and the authority granted by the probate court for the best interest(s) of interested persons.
#7 – Identifying and Gathering Decedent’s Property Subject to Probate
One of the primary tasks of a personal representative is to identify, gather, and protect all of the decedent’s assets subject to probate. Plus, the personal representative must value all estate assets and tailor a plan to organize and administer the estate according to provisions set forth by Florida law. Therefore, to fulfill the duties of a personal representative in Florida, it is key to understand probate law in the state.
#8 – Ensuring Settlement and Distribution on Time
Florida Statutes §733.603 provides that “a personal representative shall proceed expeditiously with the settlement and distribution of a decedent’s estate.” Accordingly, except as otherwise specified by law or ordered by the probate court, the personal representative “shall do so without adjudication, order, or direction of the court.”
#9 – Serving Notice of Administration
While the probate process is going on, the personal representative must proceed with service of Notice of Administration to inform interested parties that the decedent’s estate is being formally administered and the outcome may affect them.
State law (Fla. Stat. §733.212) establishes that the personal representative must “promptly serve a copy of the notice of administration” to:
- The decedent’s surviving spouse
- The decedent’s beneficiaries
- The trustee of any trust (as specified by the Florida Probate Code)
- Each qualified beneficiary of the trust(s) (as specified by the Florida Probate Code)
- Persons that may be entitled to exempt property
#10 – Handling Inventories and Accounting Is Part of the Duties of a Personal Representative in Florida
Florida Statutes §733.604(1)(a) provides that “unless an inventory has been previously filed, a personal representative shall file a verified inventory of the property of the estate, listing it with reasonable detail and including for each listed item its estimated fair market value at the date of the decedent’s death.”
This part of the process tends to be much more complex than it appears, which requires the guidance of a well-versed probate attorney.
#11 – Accessing Property Held on Safe Deposit Box(es)
If the decedent left any property held on one or multiple safe deposit boxes, the initial opening of the box shall be conducted in the presence of any two of the following persons:
- An employee of the institution where the box is located
- The personal representative, or
- The personal representative’s attorney of record
Then, each person present in the opening scene must verify the contents of the box and sign a copy of the inventory under penalties of perjury. Ultimately, the personal representative must file the safe-deposit box inventory with a copy of the box entry record as provided by law.
#12 – Take Possession of the Decedent’s Property
Florida Statutes §733.607(1) provide that “except as otherwise provided by a decedent’s will, every personal representative has a right to, and shall take possession or control of, the decedent’s property (except the protected homestead).”
Always upholding the legal duty to care, the personal representative must take all necessary steps to manage, protect, and preserve the decedent’s estate until distribution. Hence, the duties of a personal representative in Florida include hiring professionals and services to maintain the property(s) included in the estate.
#13 – Notifying Creditors
The personal representative must serve Notice to Creditors by publishing in the local newspaper circulating in the county where probate is taking place. Additionally, the personal representative must locate “known or reasonably ascertainable” creditors and notify them about the period available for filing their claims.
#14 – Paying or Objecting Creditors’ Claims Against the Estate
Once creditors have been notified about the period to file claims against the assets subject to probate, the personal representative must either pay or object to creditors’ claims based on their validity and legal compliance. It is part of the duties of a personal representative to know the creditors’ rights in Florida, in order to handle the claims the right way.
Florida Statutes §733.705 provide a detailed description of the duties of the personal representative regarding the payment or objection to claims made by creditors. Additionally, the personal representative must pay the expenses incurred during the administration of probate estate.
#15 – Handling Tax Obligations is a Key Part of the Duties of a Personal Representative in Florida
It is impossible to talk about probate without approaching tax compliance. Accordingly, the personal representative must pay any taxes due and file tax returns for the estate subject to probate.
In fact, this is one of the most difficult stages of formally administering an estate in Florida. Due to the level of legal complexity involved in this phase, the help of an experienced attorney is certainly indispensable. Especially if we talk about a case that requires ancillary administration.
#16 – Hire Professionals for Assistance
As it is plain to see, formally administering an estate subject to probate in Florida might be an overwhelming task. In this sense, Florida law permits personal representatives to hire expert professionals to assist him/her throughout the process.
For example, certified public accountants may be needed to handle the heavy burden associated with probate-related tax obligations, while professional appraisers may be needed to help evaluate the decedent’s estate. Of course, it is also crucial to hire a proper probate lawyer to handle the process the right way.
#17 – Handling Probate Litigation
If necessary, the personal representative must defend the estate subject to probate during probate litigation. The term “probate litigation” is a general designation that encompasses several legal proceedings that affect probate, such as:
- Contesting the last will
- Disputing a trust
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Quieting title to a property
- Addressing issues associated with incapacity or undue influence
- Tackling tortious interference issues
As it may seem obvious, it is impossible to succeed in probate litigation without excellent legal counseling. To handle probate litigation the right way, call us at (305) 921-0976.
#18 – Distributing the Estate Assets
Once all creditors’ claims have been either paid or objected to and there are no pending issues (i.e., probate litigation, tax liabilities, etc.), the personal representative may proceed to distribute the estate assets to the rightful beneficiaries.
The distribution must comply with all provisions set forth by Florida Statutes, as well as the provisions in the last will. Typically, the widow/widower and other close family members will be the first person(s) to receive their fair share of the estate.
#19 – Closing the Estate is a Fundamental Component of the Duties of a Personal Representative in Florida
Lastly, after all the due debt(s) have been settled and the assets distributed, the personal representative must file to legally close the estate and finalize probate proceedings.
As provided by Florida Statutes §733.901(1), “after administration has been completed, the personal representative shall be discharged”. It is crucial to note that Florida Statutes §733.901(2) adds that “the discharge of the personal representative shall release the personal representative and shall bar any action against the personal representative, as such or individually, and the surety.”
Working with an Expert Probate Attorney in Florida
It is virtually impossible to administer an estate subject to probate in Florida efficiently and rapidly without expert legal guidance. Among the duties of a personal representative, it is crucial to rely on experienced legal counseling to ensure a successful outcome. Waste no time – contact Jurado & Associates, P.A. today by calling (305) 921-0976 or emailing [email protected] to schedule a consultation.