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When someone dies the Last Will & Testament becomes the controlling instrument. Typically, your Last Will & Testament will nominate a personal representative responsible for the administration of your estate including accounting for all of your assets, paying your creditors and distributing your estate to your named beneficiaries. Many times a spouse or adult child is selected for this role. In the absence of close family, you may select a close friend or neighbor or trusted advisor such as a financial advisor, certified public accountant or your attorney.
Is this person qualified to serve as personal representative? In Florida, a personal representative must be over the age of 18, be a Florida resident or relative and cannot have ever been convicted of a felony. In addition to legal qualifications, you should consider practical qualifications. Has this person ever served as a personal representative? Do they have a basic understanding of the probate process and the duties they will be asked to perform? Your personal representative will be tasked with many important duties and legal obligations that will be monitored by the court. We have discovered that most people are unaware of the responsibilities that will be bestowed upon them when they are appointed by the court as the personal representative of an estate. Once appointed, some personal representatives find themselves overwhelmed. Some simply stop in their tracks and do nothing, causing unnecessary costs and delay. This cannot happen. The Florida Statutes provide a time for completing an estate administration and the unwillingness of an appointed personal representative to keep an estate moving forward can present a difficult situation for the beneficiaries of the estate, the attorney and even the personal representative themselves.
An unprepared personal representative can make a complete mess and jumble of the estate assets. This can happen even when the personal representative has good intentions or it can happen from bad judgment, faulty decision making and an unwillingness to follow the law. This is true for family members, friends and even seemingly qualified trusted professionals.
When selecting a personal representative, make absolutely certain they understand the responsibilities involved along with the commitment of time required. The Law Offices of Hoyt & Bryan can assist you in making certain you are nominating the appropriate person to properly carry out your estate plan. For more information, read “Straight Talk! What to Do When Someone Dies” by Peggy R. Hoyt and Debra Roser, available through our office or on Amazon.
About the Author: Peggy Hoyt Peggy R. Hoyt practices in the areas of family wealth and legacy counselling, including trust and estate planning and administration, elder law, small business creation, succession and exit planning, real estate transactions and animal law.