Professional Executor

It can be a confusing and depressing time when a loved one passes away. No matter how prepared you are, the death of a loved one can leave you feeling numb and bewildered. If you are responsible for making funeral arrangements for your loved one or administrating a probate or trust, your grief could be immobilizing, making even simple decisions seem overwhelming.

One convenient solution for surviving family members, especially those residing outside of the state of Florida, is to have an experienced probate attorney from the Florida Probate Firm serve as a professional personal representative, aka executor, for the estate. A professional personal representative can save the beneficiaries from the time commitment required of serving as fiduciary, as well as expedite the probate administration. We have the experience and resources necessary to assist in identifying and collecting any assets that may have been owned by the decedent by conducting searches for bank accounts, brokerage accounts and insurance policies. We also assist in every step of the process associated with selling real estate on behalf of the estate.

Mr. Walser will also serve as curator for estates involved in litigation, in which the judge decides the appointment of a disinterested professional is required to begin the administration and for the collection of the probate assets, before the outcome of the litigation can be settled.

A qualified probate attorney can help you through this difficult time. Call our office today to arrange an initial consultation where we can discuss how our experienced probate attorneys can assist you in finalizing your loved one’s estate.

What Is A Personal Representative Responsible For?

When a Florida resident dies owning property solely in their name, that property will be required to go through the probate process. When it comes to probate, the personal representative is the one responsible for ensuring that all the steps of the probate process are properly completed.

If you have been chosen for this important role, it is important to understand the duties that are required of you. These include:

  • Locating the decedent’s last will and testament
  • Initiating probate
  • Collecting, inventorying and appraising the decedent’s assets
  • Notifying creditors, assessing creditor claims and settling outstanding debts
  • Filing the decedent final tax return 1040 and the estate tax return 1041
  • Distributing the decedent’s remaining assets

In addition, here are some other things you will be responsible for immediately after a loved one passes away:

  • Contacting the funeral home
  • Writing an obituary
  • Obtaining death certificates
  • Contacting the social security administration, IRS and/or credit bureaus
  • Contacting financial intuitions regarding life insurance and annuity providers

With so much to do, it can be difficult to decide what you should do first. That’s where an experienced probate attorney steps in. An experienced Florida probate attorney can ensure that legal matters are taken care of and help you prioritize the steps that need to be taken immediately after the loss of a loved one.

Who Can Serve as A Personal Representative In Florida?

There are certain criteria that must be met in order to serve as a personal representative in Florida. Specifically, you must be over the age of 18, mentally and physically fit to serve, and never have been convicted of a felony.

If you were named as personal representative in the decedent’s will, his or her wishes will be respected as long as you qualify. Otherwise, Florida has a priority hierarchy that designates who else can step in and represent your loved one’s estate.

FL Statute 733.301 Preference in appointment of personal representative.—

If the decedent died with a will in place (testate), the order of priority for appointment is as follows:

  • The personal representative, or his or her successor, nominated by the will or pursuant to a power conferred in the will.
  • The person selected by a majority of the beneficiaries entitled to the estate.
  • A devisee under the will. If more than one devisee applies, the court may select the one best qualified

If the decedent died without a will (intestate), the order of priority for appointment is as follows:

  • The surviving spouse.
  • The person selected by a majority of the heirs/ beneficiaries.
  • The heir nearest in degree. If more than one applies, the court may select the one best qualified.

Restrictions for Out-of-state Personal Representatives

Florida has special rules for non-resident personal representatives. Under Florida law, an individual must be a resident of Florida to act as a personal representative, unless they are a family member of the decedent. The exact statutory authority is as follows:

FL Statute 733.304 Nonresidents. —A person who is not domiciled in the state cannot qualify as personal representative unless the person is:

  • A legally adopted child or adoptive parent of the decedent;
  • Related by lineal consanguinity to the decedent;
  • A spouse or a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece of the decedent, or someone related by lineal consanguinity to any such person; or
  • The spouse of a person otherwise qualified under this section.

Essentially, this means that any individual who does not live in Florida will be prohibited from acting as a personal representative of a Florida probate estate unless he or she is a spouse, child, sibling, parent, or close relative of the decedent. But, as these individuals are usually the ones nominated or appointed to act as personal representatives in the first place, the law does little to restrict non-residents from acting as personal representatives of Florida probate estates. This restriction can present problems where the decedent nominates a friend, or some other professional such as an attorney or CPA located in another state, to serve.

Special Rules for Personal Representatives in Florida

Besides restricting which individuals can act as a personal representative for a Florida probate estate, Florida law also places restrictions on the kinds of business entities that can serve in this capacity. So, while a bank, savings and loan association, or trust company can be named as a personal representative, it will only qualify if has been authorized to serve as a fiduciary in the state of Florida.

Duties and Obligations of the Personal Representative

A personal representative is a fiduciary who shall observe the standards of care applicable to trustees. A personal representative is under a duty to settle and distribute the estate of the decedent in accordance with the terms of the decedent’s Will and the Florida probate code as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate. Some of the statutory responsibilities of trustees applicable to personal representatives include:

  • Duty of administer the estate/trust
  • Duty of loyalty
  • Duty of care
  • Duty to act prudently (prudent investment rule)

The takeaway rule to summarize the core objective of these rules is that the fiduciary must safe guard the assets, administer the estate according to the rules imposed by Will, Florida statute, or via orders from the judge, and that they must always act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

Get Help to Fulfill Your Duties as The Personal Representative of Your Loved One’s Estate

Losing a loved one is difficult enough without all the additional hassle. But, finalizing your loved one’s estate may fall to you if you are next of kin or have been nominated in the decedent Will to act as the personal representative of his or her estate. While you may be able to find some information online about the probate process in Florida, it is still best to consult a qualified probate attorney to determine what is appropriate for your particular situation.

Choosing the right probate attorney is one of the most important decisions you can make to protect yourself, your family, and your loved one’s legacy. For help fulfilling your duties as a personal representative, contact the Florida Probate Firm to consult with a qualified, experienced, and reputable Florida probate attorney who can guide you through the process from start to finish.

Mr. Thomas Walser, Esq. and the Florida Probate Firm have handled thousands of estate administrations over 35 years.  If you decide to utilize our services as professional personal representative, once appointed as fiduciary, our office will oversee the entire probate process, from cleaning out the deceased’s residence, to handling the preparation and filing of individual and fiduciary income tax returns. Utilizing the services of the Probate Law Firm will allow you and your family to avoid the burden and time commitment that come with serving as personal representative.