When you die, someone must begin the process of distributing your assets, make sure that your state and federal estate taxes are paid, settle your debts, and have your estate closed. You can choose this person by naming them in your will, or the Florida courts will appoint one for you.
What is a personal representative?
Generally, a personal representative is a person who is legally entitled to administer your estate after you die. They can either be an executor or estate administrator.
An executor is a person you choose in your will while an estate administrator is appointed by the court. For them to carry out their role, they must obtain a grant from the court to show that they accept their fiduciary duty of managing the estate. In the meantime, the state will freeze your assets until the representative is ready to carry out their tasks.
Roles of a personal representative
The duties of a personal representative are many and varied but can be summarized as follows:
- Locating and inventorying the assets of the estate
- Paying debts and taxes owed by the estate
- Filing required estate tax returns
- Distributing the assets of the estate to beneficiaries
- Closing the estate once all debts, taxes and distributions have been made
Who can be a personal representative?
Florida probate/estate administration laws allow just about anyone over 18 to serve as a personal representative as long as they are not currently under guardianship themselves or have been convicted of a felony. They could be your family members, friends or even professional fiduciaries such as attorneys or CPAs. They must be living in Florida.
Choosing a personal representative is an important part of estate planning. It’s your way of dictating who you want to handle your affairs after you die and gives you some control over the estate administration process. If you don’t make a choice, the court will appoint someone for you who may not be who you would have chosen yourself.