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Personal representatives play an important estate planning role

One of the most important decisions Florida residents are faced with when they create an estate plan is choosing who to appoint to be their executor or trustee. Some people give the matter little thought before appointing a close friend or relative to see that their wishes are followed, but the complex nature of the duties involved merit more careful consideration. Personal representatives make important decisions, contend with strict deadlines and some of the legal and financial issues they deal with are extremely complex.

Disputes among heirs can quickly turn into bitter legal battles that tear families apart. This is why fiduciaries should possess tact and diplomacy as well as pragmatism and competence. Executors guide an estate through probate, administer wills, file the required tax returns and pay any outstanding bills. Trustees oversee trusts and distribute assets in accordance with the grantor’s wishes.

Some of these duties are time consuming and require skills that friends or relatives may lack. There is also no guarantee that the designated individual will be able assume these duties when the time comes. This is why naming a successor is a prudent step to take. Once these decisions have been made, they should be reviewed from time to time and revised if necessary.

When estates are sizable or complex, attorneys with estate administration and probate experience may suggest appointing a business, financial or legal professional to act as a co-executor. This is a role that could be filled by an attorney, accountant, financial planner or business partner. There are also companies that specialize in providing this service. Attorneys could also urge individuals who are creating estate plans to speak at length with their designated personal representatives to ensure they fully understand the duties and responsibilities involved.

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