One aspect of planning your estate is to provide a set of instructions about how you want your affairs handled after you are gone. For instance, you may have a will that states how you want your property distributed to your loved ones. As long as your will is valid, the probate court will generally see that your instructions are carried out. However, for the most part, the court doesn’t do the work itself. That job goes to the person you have chosen as your personal representative.
Your personal representative has a fairly long list of duties. One is to inventory all the property in your estate that is subject to probate. They must also pay any outstanding debts, taxes and other expenses of the estate. The money for this comes out of the estate. They distribute the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries you have named. And of course, they must file a large amount of paperwork before finally closing your estate.
Who serves as personal representative?
Commonly, the deceased names an individual in their will to serve as personal representative, but they may also name a bank or other financial institution. Many people choose a relative or close friend to serve as their representative. If the representative is an individual, they must be either a resident of Florida or a close relative of the deceased.
If the deceased did not have a valid will, or if the person named in the will as personal representative is unable to serve, the court will oversee the appointment of a personal representative. The first choice for the role in these cases is usually a surviving spouse. If the deceased did not leave behind a spouse, or if the surviving spouse declines to take the role, the heirs can vote on a person or institution they want to serve. If the heirs cannot agree, then the court appoints a personal representative.
Probate administration can be challenging. When creating your estate plan, think carefully about who you want to serve as your representative.