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What should I know about being named a personal representative?

Whether it comes as a surprise or not, being named the personal representative of the estate of a recently deceased friend or family member can be a somewhat unnerving prospect. Indeed, a person may find themselves thrust into a scenario where the terms, procedures and forums are entirely foreign.

While this is understandable, those named personal representatives don't have to worry unnecessarily. That's because the law is actually fairly straightforward and those who take some time to familiarize themselves with it may find the entire process a bit easier to manage going forward.

What exactly is a personal representative?

Here in Florida, the personal representative is the individual appointed by the circuit court judge to administer the probate estate of a deceased individual. In general, they are tasked with ensuring that the debts of the deceased are paid and their assets distributed in accordance with their wishes.

Is a personal representative different from an executor?

Chances are good that in addition to personal representative, you're heard terms such as "executor" or "administrator" used in the context of estate planning. As it turns out, these are all just different terms for the same thing. Florida law simply uses personal representative as its term of art.   

What exactly does a personal representative have to do?

While a complete answer to this question is clearly beyond the scope of a single blog post, here are a few of the important legal duties that personal representatives are tasked with completing:

  • Discovering, gathering, appraising and protecting the assets of the deceased
  • Paying off valid creditor claims
  • Filing tax returns and paying off tax debts
  • Challenging improper claims to estate assets
  • Distributing assets among heirs
  • Closing the probate estate

We'll continue examining this topic in future posts. In the meantime, if you have questions about your role as a personal representative or believe that you might require assistance with estate administration, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.

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