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In Florida, a personal representative is appointed to administer an estate. When the deceased leaves a will, the will typically contains a provision appointing a specific person to serve as personal representative. When there is no will, a personal representative will be appointed, with preference given to a surviving spouse.
The technical requirements for appointment of a personal representative are very limited. The personal representative must be at least 18 years of age, must not have been convicted of a felony, and must be physically and mentally able to fulfill the obligations of a personal representative. In addition, the personal representative must be a resident of the state of Florida, unless he or she is a close relative such as a spouse, parent, child, or sibling.
Beyond those few restrictions, a testator may choose anyone to serve as personal representative. Most often, this will be a close relative or friend.
Acting as a personal representative is a serious responsibility. The personal representative has a fiduciary duty to manage the estate for the good of the heirs, and may be personally responsible if he or she acts irresponsibly or in bad faith.
Some of the specific duties of the personal representative include:
In the performance of these and other duties, the personal representative is accountable to the probate court and, indirectly, to the beneficiaries of the estate. For example, when selling off an asset in order to pay estate debts or make distributions to heirs, the personal representative must ensure that fair value is received for that asset.
Fulfilling these obligations can be daunting for a personal representative who is inexperienced in this type of administration. An experienced probate lawyer can be a personal representative’s best resource when it comes to navigating the complex duties of a personal representative.
If you have been nominated as a personal representative in a family member’s will or are considering petitioning for appointment as personal representative of an intestate estate, give yourself the benefit of a knowledgeable advocate as early in the process as possible.