- Florida courts appoint personal representatives to administer estates.florida adventure image by feisty from Fotolia.com
Probate is a legal term describing the process where a court administers a deceased person's estate. This process involves distributing all assets, resolving debts and settling all claims against the estate. When a person dies without having a written will, the law refers to that as "intestate." Typically, the court will appoint a person to act as personal representative for the estate if the decedent dies intestate. The personal representative administers the estate. Florida Statutes 731 to 735 govern Florida personal representative law.
- Courts may appoint an individual, bank or trust company to serve as an estate's personal representative. Florida law, however, places certain restrictions on who can serve as a personal representative. For a person, she must be a resident of Florida or one of the decedent's close relatives. In addition, certain qualified trust companies, banks and savings and loan institutions can be appointed as personal representatives.
- Decedents who have valid wills typically name who they want to serve as personal representative. If the named personal representative is qualified under Florida law, the court will appoint that person or institution. Courts follow certain criteria for decedents who die intestate. First, the court will look to the surviving spouse. If the surviving spouse does not want to serve as personal representative or the decedent died unmarried, the person's heirs have the option to appoint a personal representative. If the decedent's heirs cannot choose a personal representative, the judge will hold a hearing to determine how best to proceed.
- The personal representative has the responsibility of administering the decedent's estate. The personal representative owes a fiduciary duty to the estate. That means the personal representative must act in the estate's best interest. It is the responsibility of the personal representative to identify and safeguard the decedent's assets, including property, bank accounts and investments. The personal representative must give notice to all potential creditors by publishing a notice in the local newspaper. In addition, the personal representative must actively search for potential creditors. All valid claims must be paid. The personal representative also must file and pay the estate's taxes. Overall, the personal representative must perform all duties necessary to distribute all assets, satisfy all debts and resolve all claims necessary to close the estate.
- Contact a qualified attorney licensed to practice in Florida to find out what obligations, if any, you may have with regard to Florida personal representative laws.