What are a personal representative's duties in Florida Probate?
This article has to do with a personal representative's responsibilities in a formal probate administration. Once a personal representative is appointed by the probate court, takes the oath of office, and posts bond (if required), the personal representative is authorized to administer the decedent's estate. The probate court will issue documents called "Letters of Administration" which are the evidence that the person named therein has the authority to deal with and manage the decedent's property. If the decedent owned property located outside of Florida, then an ancillary probate proceeding may have to be instituted in the foreign jurisdiction in order to properly administer the assets located there.
A duly appointed personal representative is a fiduciary standing in a position of trust to the estate and its beneficiaries and is personally responsible to the creditors (including the taxing authorities) and beneficiaries of the decedent's estate for a proper administration. If the estate is administered properly, the personal representative is not, however, personally responsible for the payment of the debts of the estate. The personal representative must not commingle any of his or her own funds with the assets of the estate and must act in a prudent manner in every aspect of the administration of the estate. Thus, the duties of the personal representative must be discharged in strict accordance with the law, and the personal representative must be able to fully account for all of the decedent's property and the management of it during the period of administration. See, §733.609, Fla. Stat.
“A duly appointed representative owes a duty to the estate similar to a trustee.”
The personal representative in Florida must take various actions.
The personal representative must take action to gain custody and control of all of the decedent's assets since he or she will be personally accountable for the management and disposition offal of the property of the estate. The basic duties of the personal representative will be to collect and preserve the assets of the estate; to pay all debts of the decedent and expenses of administration including taxes; and finally, to distribute the remainder of the estate to those persons entitled to it. A personal representative will be held liable for a failure to act in addition toeing liable for wrongful actions.
In order to raise cash to pay debts and expenses, the personal representative may be required to sell some of the assets of the estate. In selling assets, the personal representative will act under the authority set forth in the will or will act under the supervision of the court.
It is imperative that the personal representative be advised by a qualified attorney. A personal representative has substantial responsibilities and could subject themselves to substantial liability should they make errors or omissions in the performance of their duties.