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09 Feb 2012

Selecting a Personal Representative

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The personal representative (aka executor) is the person you name in your Will to handle your estate upon your death. Selecting the personal representative of your estate is an important decision. The person must be over 18 years of age and reside in your state, unless they are related to you or your spouse (the statute is very specific as to who this includes).You should name successors to act in the event that your first choice personal representative can’t act for you. If your personal representative and all the named successors are unable to act, the probate court will name a person to fill this role. The personal representative is entitled to receive a reasonable fee for these services from the money in the estate.

The Personal Representative will perform numerous tasks, which include:

(1) Obtaining the Will;

(2) Obtaining certified copies of the death certificate;

(3) Finding the beneficiaries named in the Will and all other people who must be notified about the Will (such as children of the decedent who aren’t named in the Will);

(4) Determining if there are any probate assets;

(5) Filing a petition with the probate court if probate is required under the laws of the state;

(6) Identifying, gathering, and preparing an inventory of the assets of the deceased;

(7) Receiving payments due the estate, including interest, dividends, and other income (e.g., unpaid salary, vacation pay, and other company benefits);

(8) Setting up a checking account for the estate;

(9) Figuring out who is going to get what and how much under the Will;

(10) Ascertaining a value or appraising the estate’s assets;

(11) Giving legal notice to potential creditors (the procedure and deadlines for creditors to file claims vary from state to state);

(12) Investigating the validity of all claims against the estate;

(13) Paying funeral bills, outstanding debts, and valid claims;

(14) Paying the expenses of administrating the estate;

(15) Handling various paperwork, such as discontinuing utilities and charge cards, and notifying Social Security, Civil Service, and Veterans Administration of the death;

(16) Filing and paying income and estate taxes;

(17) Distributing the remaining property in accordance with the instructions provided in the deceased’s Will; and

(18) Closing probate.

The Personal Representative doesn’t have to do all of this him or herself. He or she is allowed to hire a
probate lawyer when necessary and pay the legal fees out of the estate. There are also estate liquidators who can assist with preparing an inventory of the property of the estate and help you organize, sell and distribute the property.

Because your Personal Representative is given access to all property in the probate estate and tasked with significant responsibilities, the selection of a competent and trustworthy person is very important. It is wise to nominate someone who is responsible, intelligent, organized and honest to serve as your Personal Representative. He or she is considered a fiduciary, required to observe the standards of care applicable to trustees. Specifically, your personal representative will be under a duty to settle and distribute your estate in accordance with the terms of your Last Will and Testament and the Florida Probate Code as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate and interested persons, including creditors.

Disclaimer: This article is not a substitute for personalized legal advice and should be considered an introduction to these matters, not a specific guide.

By Sheryl Hunter Esquire

One Response to Selecting a Personal Representative
  1. This is important and actaluly happens a lot in second marriages where jointly owned property passes to the surviving spouse and to their children leaving nothing for the children of the first deceased parent.

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