Estate administration begins with appointing the right personal representative. Remember this when you consider your Last Will and Testament. Along with creating a valid estate plan, naming a trusted personal representative is critical to ensuring your wishes are followed when you pass away because you will not be around to speak for yourself.
The responsibility of the administration of an estate rests solely on the personal representative (someone appointed by the Court if there is no Will, the person named as the PR in a Will, or an alternate if the appointee is unable, unwilling, or not qualified to serve). The personal representative will act at the direction of a qualified attorney. The probate court oversees the administration process to ensure the estate is handled according to Florida law. If you create a valid estate plan, safeguards are in place so assets are distributed according to your wishes. If a person dies without a Will in Florida, a personal representative is appointed by the Court to handle the administration of the estate. You take the risk that this person may not be someone you would have chosen while you were alive.
Here's what you should consider as you think about who to choose for your personal representative.
Does a personal representative have to be a family member?
While you can name anyone as your personal representative as long as they are qualified under Florida law, it is important to choose someone you can trust to represent your interests. After all, successful estate administration begins with appointing the right personal representative. When your estate goes through the probate process, the court will decide if your personal representative is eligible to administer your estate, which includes overseeing the payment of debts and taxes, along with the ultimate distribution of tour assets.
In the rare instance you do not have a family member or friend who is qualified, capable and/or willing to serve as your personal representative, consider hiring someone outside of your friends and family. There will be fees associated with this decision, but for some it will ease the reservations they have about the proper administration of their estate.
No surprises necessary
There is no rule stating that you have to talk to your personal representative before appointing them, but it is generally a good idea to do so. The person you name may choose not to accept the responsibility when you die. It is then left to the Courts to appoint someone to handle the estate.
Talk to your loved one or trusted friend now about what it means to be a personal representative. Have a candid conversation about the size of your estate and what they will need to do after you pass away.
Consider whether there are factors that might make your personal representative unwilling to accept the responsibility when you pass away. If either of you is uncertain, think about naming an alternate. The attorneys at VanNess & VanNess, P.A. would be happy to discuss your particular needs and prepare a comprehensive estate plan for you and your family.