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The right personal representative is key to estate planning

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2024 | Estate Planning |

When creating an estate plan in Florida, most people decide to write a will. This is the easiest solution for many as they do not want to move forward with the complexities inherent with trusts and other estate planning options. Still, a will is not necessarily simple. There are aspects that need to be addressed according the state law.

One that should not be ignored is selecting a personal representative. Known in many jurisdictions as an executor, this is the person who will ensure the person who wrote the will – the testator – has their wishes according to the document carried out. There are laws in place as to who can serve as the personal representative. When writing the will, it is important to understand and adhere to them to ensure as smooth a process as possible.

The facts about a personal representative

The court will appoint the personal representative. Often, it is the individual the testator chose to serve in the role. The court has an order of preference when naming a person. First is the individual the testator wanted to perform the duties. Next will be a person selected by a majority interest of those who are entitled to the estate. Third is someone named in the will. When there is more than one devisee, the court chooses who it believes to be the most qualified.

There are rules as to who can and cannot be the personal representative. In general, the person must be an adult and live in Florida when the testator dies. There is an extended list of people who cannot be a personal representative. They include: anyone who was convicted of a felony; anyone who has been convicted of any form of abuse or neglect of an elderly or disabled person in any state or foreign jurisdiction; those who cannot perform the duties because of mental or physical limitations; and a person under the age of 18.

In some instances, a person who does not reside in Florida can be a personal representative. They must be a legally adopted child or parent of the testator; a blood relative to the testator; a spouse or other relative through blood; or a spouse of a person who is deemed qualified based on these criteria. People who are not qualified to be a personal representative must immediately resign. Failure to do so leaves them liable for various costs like legal fees.

Being a personal representative is a significant responsibility

Those who have taken the time to create a will want to make sure it is followed. Part of that is naming a qualified person to serve as the personal representative. They are expected to inform heirs that the will is heading to probate; accrue the assets; pay debts; oversee the decedent’s remaining affairs; handle the paperwork; and distribute the assets to those named in the document.

It is imperative to know the duties and make sure to pick a person who can fulfill them. This is a crucial aspect of creating a will that people might not be aware of. When writing a will, naming a personal representative and taking any other step related to estate planning, it is essential to know how to best achieve the desired objectives to avoid disputes and confusion.



Photo of Jennifer D. Sharpe