The court will generally adhere to the decedent’s instructions if he designated who is to serve as his Personal Representative in his Will. If the person is unavailable or unwilling to serve, however, or if the decedent did not name a PR in his Will, the court will generally appoint a close relative of the decedent to serve as such. The PR is compensated monetarily for his services in this regard.
The PR has a legal duty to administer the decedent’s estate in accordance with Florida law. Among other things, the PR is responsible for the following:
- He must identify, gather, value and safeguard the decedent’s “probate assets,” which refers to all real and personal property that does not pass by operation of law to another person/ entity upon the decedent’s death. An example of non-probate property is where the decedent jointly held with right of survivorship a bank account or real estate tract with another person, so that when the decedent died, its ownership automatically passed to the surviving joint owner.
- He must formally serve the decedent’s known creditors with a Notice to Creditors and publish the Notice to Creditors in a local newspaper to notify and instruct potential claimants to file their claims against the estate in the manner prescribed by FL law, or else lose their right to satisfaction.
- He must serve a Notice of Administration on those individuals who may object to the administration of the decedent’s estate (i.e. disinherited children, parents, etc.), inviting such individuals to challenge the administration in accordance with FL law, or else lose their right to do so.
- He must object to improper claims made against the decedent’s estate and defend any lawsuits brought on such claims.
- He must file the decedent’s tax returns for the current year and for all additional periods during the decedent’s life that he failed to file his own taxes.
- He must employ professionals (i.e. attorney, accountant, appraiser, investment advisor, etc.), whose services are necessary to properly administer the decedent’s estate, and pay their fees and other expenses, for which he is entitled to reimbursement.
- He must pay the statutory amounts due to the decedent’s surviving spouse or family (i.e. the decedent may not entirely disinherit his spouse, no exceptions), and distribute the decedent’s probate assets to his heirs or named beneficiaries as prescribed in his Will or by FL law.
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Duties of a Florida Personal Representative (Original Article)