When drafting a will, many people default to naming a spouse, closest sibling, or oldest child as executor of his or her estate. Choosing an executor, however, is just like hiring for any other important job: Making the right choice requires an understanding of exactly what you’ll be entrusting to that person and what strengths and skills are relevant.
Qualifications for Serving as an Executor in Florida
There are two types of qualifications to consider when choosing a Florida executor: the legal and technical requirements, and the practical qualifications that will allow your executor to successfully fulfill the role.
Legal Requirements for Florida Executors
The statutory requirements for a Florida executor are straightforward. To qualify to serve as an executor, a person must:
- Be at least 18 years of age,
- Be physically and mentally capable of performing the assigned duties,
- Not have been convicted of a felony, and
- Be a Florida resident
- EXCEPTION: A non-resident may serve as executor if that person is related to the testator by blood, marriage, or adoption
Though anyone who fulfills these three criteria is technically qualified to serve as executor, that doesn’t mean just anyone is a good choice. Selecting the right executor requires careful consideration of the duties that person will be asked to perform.
Duties of a Florida Executor
The executor of an estate is responsible for accounting for, preserving, and properly distributing the property of the estate. Some of the core responsibilities include:
- Providing notice to all interested parties
- Identifying and serving notice on creditors
- Publishing a legal notice for unidentified creditors
- Inventorying and taking possession of assets of the estate
- Valuing and preserving the value of assets
- Filing an inventory with the court
- Filing estate tax returns if required
- Paying creditor claims
- Filing income tax returns for the decedent and the estate
- Management of the assets, including
- Selling assets as necessary to pay taxes, pay creditors, or fulfill bequests
- Caretaking or arranging for caretaking of assets such as real property
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries
- Reporting to the court
- Closing out the estate
In most cases, a Florida executor must work with an estate lawyer to administer and close out the estate. Thus, the executor won’t have to manage all of these responsibilities alone. The estate attorney will provide guidance in the technical and procedural aspects of the process, advise the executor as to which tax filings are required, and otherwise help ensure that all duties are properly fulfilled. For example, the attorney can:
- Draft the necessary legal documents
- Keep the executor apprised of all relevant deadlines and requirements
- Advise as to which tax returns are required
- Ensure that inventories and other reports to the court are in proper form
- Suggest experts when required for services such as valuations
- Advise as to tax consequences and other potential costs associated with different methods of distribution
- File the executor’s reports with the court and make any necessary court appearances
- Ensure that the estate is properly closed out when all debts have been paid, tax returns filed, and assets distributed
As the above list makes clear, serving as executor is not a nominal or fleeting task. In addition to the procedural requirements, it is important to be aware that the gathering and inventorying of assets can be time consuming. This process will include not only transferring ownership of assets such as vehicles and bank accounts, but also inventorying the deceased’s personal property, including digital assets and accounts.
Ideally, the person selected will:
- Be of high integrity, so you know that he or she will act in the best interests of your beneficiaries
- Be organized and diligent, since inventorying the estate can be a time-consuming, detail-oriented process
- Have the available time and attention to invest in fulfilling the role in a thorough and timely manner
- Have indicated a willingness to serve
You may also want to consider the possible impact on family relationships in appointing an executor.
Working with an Experienced Florida Estate Planning Attorney
When you work with an experienced estate lawyer to draft your will, the attorney can assist you in considering all of the factors necessary to select an executor who is both technically qualified and well-equipped to do the job. The more information you have before making that decision and the more thoroughly you consider your options, the more likely it is that your executor will be approved by the court and will be able to efficiently discharge his or her duties.
Contact us to learn more about our estate planning and probate services.
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