Personal Representatives: who they are and what they do

Personal Representatives: who they are and what they do

Personal representative graphic attorney Jonathan H. Parker

Simply stated, personal representatives or legal personal representatives are the executors or administrators for the estate of a deceased person. Unless the decedent specifically named an individual in the Will, the probate court will appoint a personal representative. This might be a private entity, bank, or individual.

The personal representative may be the executor — the person named as such in the decedent’s Will. It could also be the successor to the executor or, if the decedent died without a Will naming an executor or administrator, the court could appoint one. In some states, including Florida, the term personal representative is used in place of administrator or executor during the probate process, and these terms are often used interchangeably by the court.

What a Personal Representative Does

A personal representative serves as fiduciary for the estate’s beneficiaries. This person or entity has the duty to act in good faith in the best interest of all involved. The law requires personal representatives to follow the terms of the deceased Will (assuming that individual had a valid Will). If the deceased died intestate, meaning without a Will, the personal representative serves as the administrator of the intestate estate.

Working with family members and/or beneficiaries, some of the tasks the personal representative may perform include arranging funeral services and notifying those entitled to part of the estate’s property. The personal representative must file all required forms, contacting financial institutions and government agencies including the IRS, and ultimately distributing estate property according to the Will.

Many people think being a personal representative allows you to choose who gets what.  Not so. It is important to note that the personal representative does NOT make random decisions him or herself unless specifically specified in the Will. The personal representative is bound by the terms of the Will, and this includes any and all distributions.

As a Personal Representative…

Most people think this means they just have to locate the Will and file it with the court, but that is not the only required tasks. As the deceased’s personal representative, you have a fiduciary responsibility to:

  • Identify and secure all the assets in the deceased’s estate. 
  • Identify all creditors and notify them that the estate has been opened.
  • Pay off any and all valid debts.
  • Dispute invalid claims.
  • File any outstanding tax returns and pay all taxes.
  • Pay all court fees and other associated fees incurred during the probate process.
  • Distribute or administer the assets.
  • Close the estate and the probate process.

All expenses come out of the estate before the remainder is distributed to the beneficiaries. And, given the significant amount of work involved, a personal representative often receives compensation from the estate as well.

We do this all the time!

Have you been assigned as a personal representative but are unfamiliar with how to do it, don’t have the time, or are concerned with the tasks involved? No problem. We represent estates in Florida, New Jersey, and Hawaii. Call now 877.727.5379 to schedule a free initial consultation with our experienced probate and estate planning attorneys by phone or Zoom.

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