A personal representative plays a vital role in a Florida probate proceeding while executing a core set of functions meant exclusively for him or her. Here are the major facets pertaining to a personal representative:
Meaning and Functions of a Personal Representative
A personal representative can be a bank, trust, agency or a person who’s in charge of the decedent’s probate estate administration process. Such a representative is appointed by the judge. In place of commonly used terms like executor or administrator, the word ‘personal representative’ is widely used in Florida.
A personal representative has the following functions:
- Identifying, gathering, evaluating, and safeguarding the decedent’s probate assets along with publishing a notice to the creditors for enabling possible claimants to file claims as per the procedure prescribed by the law.
- Serving a notice of administration to convey information regarding the probate estate administration and its procedures which are to be complied with by persons who have any objections or disputable claims.
- Executing a thorough research for finding any known or the reasonably ascertainable creditors and notifying such creditors of the deadline to file their claims.
- Objecting and defending suits pertaining to ambiguous claims.
- Paying off the valid claims, expenses of administering the probate estate, statutory sums of money to whomsoever concerned as well as filing tax returns and paying taxes which are due.
- Employing qualified professionals for assistance in administering the probate estate, in the form of reliable Florida probate attorneys, accountants, and investment consultants, if required.
- Distributing all of the probate assets to the eligible beneficiaries and thereby closing the probate estate administration in a diligent manner.
Eligibility Criteria for Personal Representative
There are certain criteria to be fulfilled for a person to be the personal representative. Either the person in contention should be a resident of Florida or regardless of that, he or she must be closely related to the decedent. For example, the decedent’s spouse, sibling, parent, child, or other close relative can become the personal representative of the decedent’s probate estate administration process.
Persons who are of less than 18 years in age, or mentally/physically unsound to perform the prescribed duties, or convicts of a felony, are ineligible to be nominated as a personal representative. On the other hand, even a company which is registered under the laws of Florida, or a bank in Florida, can act as the personal representative.
Appointment of a Personal Representative
Only if the decedent leaves behind a valid will, the concerned judge will assign that person or the company stated in that will, to act as the personal representative of the decedent’s probate estate administration process. However, the person or company named in the will must be legitimate to serve.
In case the decedent died intestate, i.e. without any will, the living spouse can rightfully be appointed as the personal representative by the judge. If the decedent died with an unmarried status, or if the living spouse is not willing to act as a personal representative, the person or company chosen by a majority in the interest of the decedent’s heirs has the very next right to become the personal representative.
Florida Probate Attorney for a Personal Representative
It’s crucial for a personal representative to seek professional assistance from a proficient probate attorney in Florida. Such an attorney can help in the end-to-end administration of the decedent’s probate estate. This is because non-attorneys can find it difficult to deal with certain legal issues which may arise even during the most basic probate estate administration cases.
A Florida probate attorney provides case-specific advisory to the personal representative based on his or her rights and duties under the Florida law. An attorney is said to be a representative of the personal representative for the probate estate proceedings. Even if the decedent’s will has a special mention of a particular Florida probate attorney or law firm, such a provision isn’t binding and the personal representative may opt for any other attorney or law firm in Florida.
Fees & Compensation of a Personal Representative
There are 5 different ways in which a personal representative’s fees and compensation can be determined:
- Based on what’s stated in the decedent’s Will.
- Depending on what’s mentioned in a pre-signed contract between the decedent and the personal representative.
- As per the agreement of the personal representative and the ones from whom the personal representative’s compensation will be levied.
- According to the law of Florida in case none of the beneficiaries have any objection.
- As directed by the judge.
Similarly, the fees of a probate attorney in Florida can be calculated based on any of these 3 factors:
- Based on an agreement between the Florida probate attorney, the personal representative, and the ones who will concede such payment.
- The amount that’s considered reasonable after being calculated as per the Florida law and in case such an amount is not contested by any beneficiary.
- As determined by the judge.
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