Why Personal Representatives Need Legal Counsel

If you become a personal representative during a Florida probate case, it is almost always required that you have legal representation. (In Florida, the executor of an estate is referred to as a personal representative.) An exception is the rare instance when the personal representative is also the sole interested person. An interested person is “any person who may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the particular proceeding involved.” 

The personal representative has a fiduciary duty to the estate’s beneficiaries. Failing to meet their obligations may result in them being liable to heirs. Although personal representatives will likely have legal counsel, it is important to understand how valuable this is. 

The Benefit of Having a Legal Representative

When people create wills and select a personal representative, they typically choose someone close to them that they can trust. However, this person is likely unprepared to face the complexities of the probate process and legal procedures that accompany estate administration. For example, if you have been chosen as a personal representative, you have a duty to follow Florida law while administering the estate. The court is not set up to advise you on your role, and there may be circumstances in which you need a legal advisor. 

For instance, imagine you are the personal representative of your father’s estate. Your father drafted and signed a valid will. However, you discover the existence of a second document that outlines how he wanted his assets distributed. Which takes precedence over the other? What do you do with this document? That scenario is based on an actual event. The personal representative admitted the second document, and then the sibling tried to appeal it. This is one example of how quickly a probate issue could escalate into potential litigation. 

In addition to navigating through the legal component, administering an estate requires you to oversee the payments to creditors. These will get paid out of the deceased’s estate, but they can be complicated. If the deceased left behind a mortgage, do you have to pay the mortgage off? There are laws that enable an heir to take over the payments without facing foreclosure, but there is no guarantee that the lender will know this. That’s one example of why it is paramount to have an attorney support you when these inevitable issues surface. Lastly, if you need a financial advisor, your attorney can refer you to someone they trust and have worked with in the past. 

Contact An Experienced Probate Administration Attorney Today

Luis E. Barreto & Associates supports and advises personal representatives for estates. We can assist you with going through the records and information left behind by the deceased, settling debts, and dealing with challenges such as competing claims from creditors. Use our extensive experience with handling the financial and legal issues associated with probate during this stressful time in your life. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.

Luis E. Barreto