Other states call them “executors” (or, ridiculously, for women, “executrix”), but in Florida they’re known as personal representatives (PR). That’s the person who, in a formal probate administration proceeding is charged by the court with satisfying the steps needed to distribute a deceased person’s assets.
The duties of a personal representative are carried out in accordance with Florida probate law. In Florida, the PR can be a person (as is most common), but it can also be a bank or private entity. Personal representatives are typically named in a person’s will, but if the named PR is unwilling or unable to serve (for example, a non-relative who does not live in Florida is not allowed to serve, even if the person’s will names them), one is appointed by the court. Florida law allows a PR to collect 3 percent of the estate’s probate assets as a fee for their work.
Here are some of the things a personal representative is charged with doing:
- Identifying and securing all the assets of the estate. Bank accounts, stock mutual funds, property, cars, cash…. The PR’s job is to find and value of all assets that will become part of the probated estate.
- Identifying creditors and paying valid claims while objecting to invalid ones. Working with a probate attorney, the PR sends a “Notice to Creditors” to everyone who may be owed money by the estate, then pays those claims from the estate’s bank account (specially opened for this purpose). If claims are made that are not valid, the PR can challenge them.
- Filing tax returns and paying any taxes that may owed. While most estates fall under the roughly $5-million threshold for paying a federal estate tax, a final tax return still needs to be prepared and filed and regular income and other taxes paid for the final tax year of the person’s life.
- Distributing assets to all beneficiaries. Once all the debts have been paid, the PR works with the attorney to distribute all assets according to the person’s will (or, if there is no valid will, Florida law).
- Closing the probate estate. As their last task, the PR finalizes the legal “closing” of the estate and the estate’s bank account.
The personal representative is one piece of a complex process of a formal probate administration. Working with an experienced probate attorney can help guide you through the process. The Law Office of Gary Landau has been handling probates across the state of Florida for more than 20 years. Contact us by phone at 954-979-6566 or by email for a FREE consultation. Attorney Gary Landau personally returns all calls and emails to him.