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A deceased person’s estate is administered primarily by his court-appointed Personal Representative (PR). In Florida, the PR can be an individual, bank or trust company, subject to certain restrictions. An individual, for example, may only serve as PR if he is a Florida resident or, alternatively, if he is a spouse, sibling, parent, child or other close relative of the decedent, regardless of where he resides. Similarly, to qualify to serve as PR, a trust company must be incorporated under the laws of Florida, and a bank must be authorized and qualified to exercise fiduciary powers in Florida.

According to Florida Statute 733.304, a non Florida resident cannot qualify as personal representative unless the person is:
(1) A legally adopted child or adoptive parent of the decedent;
(2) Related by lineal consanguinity to the decedent;
(3) A spouse or a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece of the decedent, or someone related by lineal consanguinity to any such person; or
(4) The spouse of a person otherwise qualified under this section.

If the decedent nominated a specific individual/entity to serve as his Personal Representative in his validly executed Will, the court will generally respect the decedent’s choice (so long as the person/ entity is legally qualified to serve as noted above). If, however, the decedent did not leave a validly executed Will or if the person/ entity he nominated to serve as Personal Representative is unqualified or unable/ unwilling to serve, the court will look to FL Statute 733.301 to determine who to appoint as the decedent’s PR. According to 733.301, the decedent’s surviving spouse has the first right to be appointed by a judge to serve as his PR. If the decedent was not married at the time of his death or if the surviving spouse declines to serve, the person selected by a majority in interest of the decedent’s heirs will be appointed as PR. If the heirs cannot agree as such, the court will usually appoint the decedent’s heir of nearest degree.

Updated November 2013.