Personal representatives play a vital role in the probate process. Personal representatives are given legal authority to manage an estate, execute a will, and help distribute assets to beneficiaries once probate has ended. Whether you’re drafting a will or have been named the personal representative for someone else’s will, it’s important to understand a personal representative’s primary responsibilities. Here are a personal representative’s primary responsibilities during probate:
Execute the Will
This is the biggest responsibility a personal representative has during probate. The personal representative is responsible for submitting the necessary documents to the probate court in the county where the decedent (the person who passed away) lived. These documents include the death certificate, the will, and other relevant financial or asset documentation. Once the probate court receives these documents, the court will issue a Notice of Administration, which is the official beginning of probate.
Facilitate Communication Between Probate Court and Family
Personal representatives are essential in facilitating communication between the decedent’s family, the probate court, and beneficiaries. They are the primary point of contact for any questions or concerns that family members or beneficiaries may have about the probate proceedings. They must represent the family at any necessary court meetings. Personal representatives are also responsible for notifying beneficiaries that they are listed in your will and that the estate has entered probate.
Notify Creditors of Probate Proceedings
Personal representatives are responsible for informing creditors that the estate has entered probate. Creditors are people or companies that are owed money by the decedent. Creditors make claims against the estate to satisfy debts owed. Creditors could include credit card companies, lenders, and government agencies. Personal representatives must officially send the notice to creditors, following the instructions in Florida Statute 733.2121. Creditors can make a claim within 90 days of the notice’s publication.
Value Estate and Create Estate Bank Account
During probate proceedings, personal representatives are responsible for managing the estate finances. They take inventory of the decedent’s possessions, bank accounts, stocks, and financial assets to determine a total estate value. Any funds from bank accounts or sold assets are placed in an estate bank account, which the personal representative will establish and manage.
Personal representatives act as fiduciaries during probate, so they’re legally responsible for handling the decedent’s finances. They can be personally liable for any mismanagement of the estate evaluation or estate bank account.
File Final Tax Return
A surviving spouse or a personal representative is responsible for filing the decedent’s final tax return. It’s important to choose a personal representative you trust to handle your sensitive and personal information, such as your family’s social security numbers and income information. The personal representative must submit court documents that show they have legal authority over the estate and can legally file the tax return on behalf of the decedent.
Maintaining Decedent’s Property
The personal representative ensures that the decedent’s property is well-maintained throughout the probate process. This may involve paying HOA fees or taking care of landscaping. If there are unpaid mortgage or car payments, the personal representative will use funds in the estate bank account to cover these expenses until probate is finalized.
Distribute Assets to Beneficiaries
Once the beneficiaries have been informed of the probate proceedings, all debts have been paid, and the creditor claim period has ended, the personal representative will distribute the estate’s remaining assets to beneficiaries as outlined in the will. To conclude the probate proceedings, a petition of discharge will be filed with the probate court.
How to Name a Personal Representative
You can name your personal representative when drafting your will. If you don’t include a personal representative in your will, the judge may appoint one at the start of probate.
Our estate planning attorneys at Every & Stack can help you draft a will and a comprehensive estate plan. Call our Daytona Beach office at 386-255-1925 for a free consultation to discuss your estate planning needs.