Duties of a Personal Representative
This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.
In Florida, we refer to what other states often call “executors,” as Personal Representatives. The primary duty of a Personal Representative is to administer the decedent’s estate. This means that the Personal Representative must identify and gather all assets of the estate, settle all creditor claims owed by the estate, distribute all assets according to the terms of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament or as determined by Florida’s laws of intestacy, and comply with the Florida Probate Rules. See Florida Statute §733.602. These duties begin once the Personal Representative has been appointed. See Florida Statute §733.601. Once a Personal Representative is appointed, that person must notify all intended beneficiaries and potential heirs and identify and notify potential creditors. See Florida Statute §733.604, §733.701. Florida has specific guidelines on the manner in which creditors shall be notified. Notifying potential creditors is a formal process that should be strictly followed set forth by the Florida Probate Rules. Once these tasks are completed, the Personal Representative must file an Inventory with the court which includes all of the decedent’s probate assets and the estimated fair market value of each asset at the date of the decedent’s death. See Florida Statute §733.604. The Inventory must be amended or supplemented if the Personal Representative learns of any additional assets that were not originally mentioned in the original Inventory. See Florida Statute §733.604. Once the Inventory has been filed, the Personal Representative will then resolve creditors' claims, if any, – those that were timely filed, if the estate is not insolvent, and applicable taxes. Upon payment of the creditors' claims and taxes, the Personal Representative distributes the estate assets according to the instructions in the Will and in accordance with the Florida Probate Code or per Florida’s intestacy Statute. Finally, the Personal Representative has a duty to file all documents to close the estate, typically comprising of a Petition to Discharge and Final Accounting, among other documentation. See Florida Probate Rule 5.400.
Additionally, a Personal Representative is a fiduciary of the decedent’s estate. See Florida Statute §733.602. This confers a duty on the Personal Representative to act on behalf, and in the best interest, of the estate. See Florida Statute §733.602. If the Personal Representative fails to do so, legal action against the Personal Representative may result. See Florida Statute §733.609.
In summary, it is essential for a Personal Representative to understand and adhere to all of their legal responsibilities. It is advised that anyone unfamiliar with this role who has been appointed as a Personal Representative contact an attorney for further guidance.