The duties of a personal representative in administering a decedent’s estate are many and varied.
In a very broad sense, there are 3 duties every personal representative must accomplish in order to properly administer an estate.
Although for the purposes of today’s discussion we are only highlighting 3 of a personal representative’s duties don’t let that fool you. The personal representative has many duties —all of which must be accomplished in the greatest good faith and in a timely fashion.
Indeed, it is because the role of a personal representative is so critical and difficult that Florida requires all personal representatives conducting formal administration to have, among other professionals, their own estate attorney to assist them.
The Personal Representative
In Florida, the personal representative (elsewhere called an “executor”) is a fiduciary chosen by the decedent to administer his or her estate.
It is the personal representative who is given power over a decedent’s estate essentially equivocal to what the decedent himself or herself would have. Because of this, a personal representative is a fiduciary held to the highest standard of care. He or she must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.
In addition, the personal representative can be held personally liable to the creditors of the estate and decedent’s beneficiaries for failing to properly administer the estate.
For those making an estate plan, choosing a personal representative is critical. You must choose someone who can handle the tasks involved and who is completely trustworthy and honest.
A personal representative’s duties must be discharged in strict accordance with the law. He or she must fully account for all of decedent’s property as well as for the management of that property during administration.
3 Duties Every Personal Representative Must Accomplish to Administer an Estate.
As noted above, a personal representative has many duties to carry out with regard to a decedent’s estate.
Distilled down to the very basics, here are 3 duties every personal representative must accomplish to administer an estate:
1. Locate and collect all of decedent’s assets
One of a personal representative’s first duties is to locate and take control of all the decedent’s assets—including tangible assets (e.g., money and property) and intangible assets (e.g., copyrights, digital assets).
The personal representative must take possession of any and all real property, being careful to properly file and serve notice if the property constitutes homestead property.
The personal representative must also determine what the decedent’s liabilities will be.
Again, we stress that we are taking a broad sweep here with regard to the personal representative’s duties —the actual duties that must be performed with regard to locating and assuming control of decedent’s assets are far more varied and specific. So, please consult with an experienced probate attorney if you have agreed to be a personal representative.
Notify beneficiaries and creditors of administration
Once Letters of Administration have been issued, the personal representative is responsible for properly notifying all those who may claim an interest in the decedent’s estate about the administration of that estate.
This is done by properly serving a Notice of Administration and a Notice to Creditors.
The Notice of Administration must be served on all interested parties and a Notice to Creditors must be served on all reasonably ascertainable creditors of a decedent’s estate.
Properly close the estate after distribution
After the estate has been administered, the decedent’s property has been distributed according to his/her Will or the laws of intestacy, and all debts and taxes have been paid, the personal representative must properly conclude and close the administration by preparing and filing a final accounting.
The personal representative must also petition the court to discharge him/her from his/her duties.
Administering an estate comes with a number of significant and vital responsibilities. Personal representatives are not expected to handle all of these issues alone, but rather, in Florida are required to hire counsel and other professionals to assist them.
Experienced Estate Attorneys
Helping individuals plan their estate and navigate the probate process is what the attorneys at the Law Offices of Samantha J. Fitzgerald do. We provide individualized estate plans and expertly guide individuals through the complex probate process, and capably handle all aspects of the creation, administration, and settlement of trusts as well. Contact us here