Understanding the Role of the Personal Representative in Probate

A personal representative is one of the key figures in probate proceedings. In this formal process overseen by the court, a personal representative plays a crucial role in managing the deceased person’s estate. An effective personal representative may ensure that the decedent’s assets find their way to the appointed heirs and beneficiaries without any unnecessary delays.

Since probate proceedings can be complicated, a personal representative’s task is not always easy. In this article, we will briefly analyze a personal representative’s key duties as well as his or her impact on the efficiency of the probate process. Whether you’re drafting a Will, have been appointed a personal representative yourself or are involved in probate as one of the heirs, you will no doubt benefit from having a better understanding of this important position.

Identifying Probate Assets

When a person, a bank, or a trust company gets appointed as a personal representative, their first duty is to identify, gather, and secure all the assets that form the deceased person’s estate and that go through probate. Probate assets may include bank and investment accounts, life insurance policies, real estate and so on. 

Publishing the Notice to Creditors

The Notice to Creditors is an official announcement that informs the creditors and debtors of the deceased person about the probate process. Such a notice is usually published in a local newspaper and gives the creditors a period of time during which they can come forward and collect the outstanding debts and settle any financial obligations previously unresolved by the decedent. The personal representative must then use a portion of the estate to pay all valid financial claims.

Serving a Notice of Administration

The Notice of Administration is a document addressed and served by the personal representative to all parties that may have some valid interest or claim in the deceased person’s estate. The Notice informs the parties that the decedent’s Will has been filed for probate. It also mentions a limited time period in which the parties may try to contest the Will and present an objection to the validity of the probate proceedings. 

The parties that the personal administrative must notify of the probate proceedings are usually clearly stated in the Will. If there is no valid Will in place, the personal representative must consult and follow Florida intestacy laws to identify the interested parties.

Paying the Taxes

The estate tax is a federal tax levied against estates whose worth exceed $11.18 million. The personal representative is responsible for filing the tax return and paying the estate tax as well as any other taxes owed by the deceased.

Distributing Probate Assets to Beneficiaries

Once all the outstanding debts and taxes are settled, the personal representative can proceed to the last part of their job – distributing the assets among the decedent’s heir and the beneficiaries of his or her Will. Only after the assigned portions of the estate have been successfully distributed among the beneficiaries can the representative officially close the estate and be relieved from their duties.

Obtain Trusted Counsel on Probate Administration Issues

Probate administration is a critical and complex task. A personal representative will no doubt have to exhibit considerable skill, responsibility, and effort to carry out their duties successfully. In order to avoid common probate issues, it is usually advisable to work closely with an experienced probate attorney. Luis E. Barreto & Associates, P.A. provides comprehensive assistance with probate administration. Contact us today to schedule a personal consultation and take advantage of our efficient and cost-effective probate services.

Written by Luis E. Barreto

Luis E. Barreto

Luis is a probate and guardianship litigator with over 23 years of experience in the field. Determination of heirs, will contests, breaches of fiduciary duty, removal of personal representatives, guardians and trustees are just some of the types of litigation he addresses. In addition, he administers non-contested estates and guardianships.