Your father or best friend asks you to be their personal representative of their estate should something happen to them. That doesn’t sound too hard. Now years down the road, it’s time for you to assume that role. Do you know what to do? Where do you start? This article should help you get started with the process.
If you are appointed a personal representative and you thought it was easy, you are wrong. There is a lot of responsibility involved. A judge will formally appoint you the personal representative. This term is used in Florida instead of “executor”. As a personal representative you have a legal duty to ensure the estate of the person you represent is administered in accordance to the law of the state. You must identify all property and assets of the deceased and safeguard those things. You will also be responsible to place a notice to creditors in the local paper for any claims against the estate. The notice isn’t where you stop with the creditors. You also must do a reasonable search for any creditors out there and tell them of the timeline for filing a claim. Some people may make false claims against the estate. It will be your duty to make sure all claims filed are valid.
When the claims have been collected, you will take money from the estate and pay those claims. You will also have to file any due tax forms and pay those taxes from the estate. Perhaps you have hired people, like attorneys or accountants, to assist you in this task. You will also need to pay them. The cost of going through probate comes from the estate and must be settled prior to the division of the estate.
Now that the financial settlements have been made, it’s time to divide up what’s left. Any items that are willed to someone should be given to them. If the property is to be sold and the proceeds divided up among the heirs, it’s necessary to get a reasonable value for the property. You wouldn’t sell a car for a dollar is it was worth $5,000. Fair market value is the key. If you as personal representative mishandles the estate you can be held liable for any damages brought to the heirs.
Being a personal representative is not something to take lightly. You are being trusted with the assets of someone’s life. Consult an attorney if you have any questions.