Are you in charge of administering an estate? If you are designated as "Personal Representative" in the will of a deceased Florida resident, you are charged with the duty to administer the estate. If a relative died without a will, Florida Statute 733.301 provides preference for appointment as Personal Representative in the following order: 1) surviving spouse, 2) person selected by majority in interest of the heirs, or 3) the heir in the nearest degree. Persons who reside outside of Florida must be related to the decedent as either a legally adopted child or parent, related by lineal consanguinity (blood) to the decedent, or spouse, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, nephew, niece (or related by blood line to any such person), or married to a qualified person to serve as a Personal Representative in Florida.
Persons younger than 18, or convicted of a felony, or mentally or physically unable to perform the duties are not qualified.
As a designated Personal Representative, you should consult with a Miami probate attorney as soon as possible to review the duties you will have, and to consider if you are willing and able to serve as Personal Representative. Should you decline to serve, notice should be given to the person next in line to be Personal Representative.
The Personal Representative will select the attorney to work with him or her. The duties include collecting the decedent's assets, protecting assets from loss, collection of financial records, notifying possible creditors and the heirs of the administration. The statutes specify the order of priority in which creditors are paid. After payment of taxes, creditors, and administrative costs, distribution is made to the beneficiaries and the estate is closed.
As Personal Representative, you have a duty to follow the probate law, to protect the interests of both lawful creditors, the heirs, and carry out the terms of the will.
On a more basic level, the Personal Representative, is the one who goes through the decedent's dock drawer, sorts the bills and bank records, and collects the information for administration.
Whether or not the estate requires probate, consultation with a probate attorney from the Law Offices of Susan E. Durre may save you money by informing you of which assets are exempt from creditors' claims, and where the obligation for payment lies. In most cases, starting sooner will be to your advantage.