What is a Personal Representative and Who May Serve as One?
This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.
In Florida, a personal representative, commonly known as an "executor" in other states administers the estate of a decedent pursuant to a Last will and Testament (“Will”). A personal representative carries out the decedent's wishes - s(he) gathers the decedent's assets and distributes them according to the Will.
Serving as a personal representative is not limited to individuals. A personal representative can be:
a trust company
a banking corporation, or
a state savings association.
See Florida Statutes §733.305 and §733.302.
Such appointment is subject to approval by the court. See Florida Statute §731.201(28). If a Will fails to provide for a personal representative, the court will appoint one. See Florida Statute §733.301. Alternatively, the beneficiaries can also agree to appoint a certain personal representative; however, the appointment is still subject to the court’s approval.
Florida law lists several requirements for who may serve as a personal representative:
1) Any person who is over the age of eighteen,
2) is a Florida resident*,
3) has not been convicted of a felony,
4) has not been convicted of any abuse or neglect of an elderly or disabled person in any jurisdiction, and
5) is mentally and physically able to perform such duties can serve as a personal representative.
*Further, the general requirement that an individual appointed as a personal representative be a Florida resident is not applicable to the following individuals: a legally adopted parent or child, any family member that are directly ascended or descended of one another (i.e. mother, daughter and grandmother), siblings, aunts, uncles or spouses of any of the above-mentioned family members. Therefore, most family members do not have to be Florida residents in order to serve as personal representatives in this state. If an individual seeks to appoint a non-individual as personal representative, the company must be incorporated under the laws of Florida. See Florida Statute §733.305.
A personal representative who is not qualified to act at the time of appointment must resign immediately. See Florida Statute §733.3101(1). If the personal representative, after having been appointed, knows (s)he is not qualified to act, the personal representative must promptly file a notice with the court. See Florida Statute §733.3101(2). If a personal representative fails to remove him or herself after knowledge that he or she is unqualified, the personal representative is subject to costs and fees incurred in any removal proceeding. §733.3101(3).
In summary, a personal representative must meet various qualifications to administer an estate in Florida. It is advised that anyone unfamiliar with this role who has been appointed as a personal representative contact an attorney for further guidance.