What does a personal representative do in a Florida probate?
The personal representative has a lot of responsibilities, and those responsibilities often require action. Here are some typical actions a personal representative has to take in a formal probate administration in Florida. You can see why an attorney is required. The following are required in most estates:
• Taking possession of and protecting the real (including protected homestead) and personal property of the decedent including making immediate and adequate provision for insurance against loss where appropriate. Note that Fla. Pro. R. 5.404 requires a personal representative, who takes possession of 5what appears reasonably to be protected homestead pending a determination of its homestead status, to file a notice of such act and to formally serve a copy of such notice upon interested persons and any person in actual possession of the property. The required contents of the notice are set forth in the Rule.
• Contacting the Social Security Administration and the Veteran's Administration to apply for any death benefits or survivor benefits for which the decedent's estate may be eligible.
• Locating insurance policies and applying for benefits if the proceeds are payable to the estate. If payable to an individual, the personal representative should deliver the policy to the beneficiary. Generally, when applying for insurance or other benefits, the personal representative must present the insurance policy or other benefit certificate, a certified copy of the death certificate, and letters of authority to act on behalf of the estate.
• Contacting the decedent's employer and any club or fraternal organization to which the decedent may have belonged to determine if the estate or surviving family members are entitled to any benefits.
• Examining the circumstances surrounding the decedent's death to determine if there are any claims against third parties which need to be asserted or preserved, such as claims for wrongful death or worker's compensation.
• Giving notice to creditors of the estate to file their claims against the estate, by publishing a notice in the county legal newspaper. Actual notice (for example, by regular or certified mail) must be given to known or reasonably ascertainable creditors. See, § 733.2121, 733.701, Fla. Stat.
• Collecting rents, accounts receivable, interest, dividends and other income due to the decedent prior to death and that becomes due to the estate thereafter.
• Assuming responsibility for any litigation or settlement of any pending lawsuit in which the decedent had an interest.
• Keeping the property of the estate in good repair.
• Keeping the estate property invested properly until the administration is complete. See, §§733.612,518.10-518.14, Fla. Stat.
• Reviewing the decedent's personal records.
• Having the estate's attorney conduct an estate search of appropriate county court records.
• Opening appropriate estate bank accounts for payment of debts and expenses.
• Locating and accessing any safe deposit boxes in the decedent's name, §§733.6065, 655.936, Fla. Stat.
• Selling real property with a court order or continue to make mortgage payments, §733.613, Fla. Stat.
There may be many other things the personal representative is required to do. A qualified attorney can help ensure the personal representative is protected and making the right decisions for the estate.