The person who executes or administers (the preferred term) an estate during probate is usually called the personal representative. The jobs of getting an estate through probate may seem simple. However, estates vary greatly in value and complexity. Generally, though, there are at least 6 steps to take when administering an estate.
The personal representative may have to prove the decedent’s death while administering the estate. For example, financial institutions and insurance companies often require an original death certificate, along with other documentation, before disbursing funds. You may be able to order death certificates from the funeral director who handles the decedent’s funeral or from the Florida Department of Health.
Hopefully, the personal representative will know where the decedent kept his or her original Will. Typically, the original Will, not a copy, must be submitted in order to start administering the estate. According to Florida statutes, the Will should be filed in the county where the decedent lived in most cases.
If the decedent did not leave a valid Florida Will, the estate still must go through probate. The judge overseeing the estate will appoint a personal representative, who then administers the estate according to Florida intestacy laws.
Another important task is locating the decedent’s assets. The personal representative is responsible for protecting the assets and preparing an inventory. In addition, the representative of the estate may have to purchase insurance, pay rent or mortgages, sell property, and move assets to a safe location.
The personal representative publishes a Notice to Creditors after being appointed and attempts to contact all known creditors. Potential creditors then have about three months to file a claim against the estate. Legitimate debts will be paid before the probate estate assets can be distributed to heirs.
An estate’s personal representative determines beneficiaries or heirs and then distributes estate assets using the decedent’s Will or state laws regarding intestacy. In addition, the surviving spouse’s elective share and family allowances may enter the equation.
Administering an estate is not always an easy process. It helps to have an experienced Florida probate attorney on your side.
John Mangan has been board certified in Wills, Trusts & Estates by the Florida Bar. At Law Offices of John Mangan, P.A., we have assisted many clients with probate and estate planning. Call us at 772-324-9050 to set up an appointment or use our convenient Contact Form.