The expectations of personal representatives in Palm City probate are strict. Mishandling an estate or ignoring fiduciary requirements can lead to unsatisfied beneficiaries and legal ramifications for you as a personal representative. Instead of risking a serious judgment error, work with an attorney who can help. Legal help is only a phone call away.
If a person passes away owning assets in his/her own name, and no beneficiary or co-owner is named on the asset or account, then probate will likely be required. The person named as the personal representative or executor in the will normally will have the first opportunity to serve as such but is not obligated to do so.
To be eligible to serve as a personal representative, an individual must be at least 18 years of age and must not have any felony convictions. In addition, if the person is not a resident of the state of Florida, the person typically must be a close blood relative or perhaps the spouse of a close blood relative.
In testate estates where a will exists, the personal representative nominated in the will has first priority to serve. If no one nominated by the will can serve, then a person selected by the majority in interest of the persons entitled to the estate may serve. Otherwise, a devisee under the will may serve. In the event that more than one party is eligible, the probate court may select the one best qualified.
The person named as the personal representative in the decedent’s will is not obligated to serve. If such a person chooses not to serve, then an alternate named under the will, if any, may serve. The personal representative may ask the court for a release from serving as personal representative, but a new personal representative would need to be appointed. Otherwise, the order of priority described above would apply.
If the personal representative dies before being discharged from the position, then a new personal representative will need to be appointed to finish administration of the estate. The order of priority would also apply.
In an intestate estate, the surviving spouse, if any, has first priority in serving as personal representative. If the surviving spouse cannot serve, the person selected by a majority in interest of the heirs may serve. Otherwise, the heir nearest in degree to the decedent may serve, and the probate court may select the one best qualified if more than one applies.
Acting as personal representative is not an easy job, so serving in the position should not be taken lightly. The personal representative needs to be prepared for the time commitment that is involved with service. Often, full administration of the probate estate takes 12 mos. or sometimes more.
A personal representative should consider whether they are able and willing to commit to serving in the role. They should also consider whether there is likely to be fighting or litigation in the administration of the estate. Sometimes, it makes sense to pass on the responsibility to an independent party appointed by the court.
The personal representative should ensure that the probate estate consists of adequate assets to pay for the costs of the probate administration, and if they do not, then the personal representative and/or the beneficiaries should be willing and able to self-fund those costs, unless other arrangements can be made. The personal representative will be responsible for identifying and valuing the assets of the estate, reporting those values to the court on an inventory filing, and ultimately accounting for all of the estate assets before discharge can be made.
An executor is another name for a personal representative. Under Florida law, the personal representative is the legally appointed person that represents the decedent’s estate.
A person becomes executor by petitioning a court and obtaining an order appointing the person to the role. Sometimes, a court will require that the executor post bond, and their appointment may be conditioned on posting the bond. Judges in certain Florida counties tend to require bond of all executors. Judges in other Florida counties only require a bond in situations where the judge has heightened concern for the assets of the estate.
The best time for an executor to hire a Florida probate lawyer is prior to accepting the role of executor and petitioning the court for appointment. The expectations for personal representatives in Palm City probate are not to be taken lightly. There are many fiduciary obligations that a personal representative has. Ignoring them will lead to legal trouble. Instead of risking a serious mistake, work with an attorney who can help. Call today.