If you are named as the personal representative in a loved one’s will that will be probated in Florida, you may have some questions about the responsibilities and powers the personal representative has in relation to the assets and debts of the probate estate. In Florida, the personal representative is the person in charge of the administration of a probate estate in a formal administration. The personal representative may also be called the executor, especially in other states. In a Florida formal probate administration, the personal representative is required to have an attorney represent them in the probate case. However, the personal representative is tasked with the fiduciary duty to carry out the administration of the probate estate in the best interests of the beneficiaries and according to applicable law.
The duties and powers of the personal representative in a Florida probate administration are set out in Part VI of Chapter 733, Florida Statutes. The spirit of the powers of a personal representative in Florida is included in section 733.603, Florida Statutes in that “A personal representative shall proceed expeditiously with the settlement and distribution of a decedent’s estate and, except as otherwise specified by this code or ordered by the court, shall do so without adjudication, order, or direction of the court.” Generally speaking, section 733.603 states that the personal representative of a Florida probate estate is allowed to act without permission of the court, except in certain circumstances where court permission is required under the law.
The personal representative is a fiduciary and therefore is required to “observe the standards of care applicable to trustees” under section 733.602(1), Florida Statutes. This makes it especially risky to try to buy assets from the estate, or do anything else that might benefit the personal representative. Further under section 733.602(1), Florida Statutes, “a personal representative is under a duty to settle and distribute the estate of the decedent in accordance with the terms of the decedent’s will and this code as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate.”
Section 733.612, Florida Statutes lists specific actions by a personal representative that can be taken without court approval. These actions generally include:
- Retain assets owned by the decedent, pending distribution or liquidation.
- Perform or compromise the decedent’s contracts.
- Receive assets from fiduciaries or other sources.
- Make investments considering the amount to be invested, liquidity needs of the estate, and the time until a distribution is to be made.
- Acquire or dispose of assets, excluding real property, for cash or credit.
- Make ordinary or extraordinary repairs or alterations in buildings or other structures.
- Enter into a lease.
- Enter into a lease or other arrangement for the extraction of raw materials or minerals.
- Abandon property that is of no benefit to the estate.
- Exercise the decedent’s voting rights for stocks or other securities.
- Pay calls, assessment, and other sums chargeable or accruing against or on account of securities, unless barred by the provisions relating to claims.
- Hold property in the name of a nominee or in other form without disclosure of the interest of the estate, but the personal representative is liable for any act of the nominee in connection with the property so held.
- Insure the assets of the estate.
- Borrow money, with or without security, to be repaid from estate assets or otherwise, other than real property, and advance money for the protection of the estate.
- Extend, renew, or in any manner modify any obligation owing to the estate.
- Pay taxes, assessments, and other expenses incident to the administration of the estate.
- Employ people for the benefit of the estate, including attorneys.
- And other powers.
As you can see, there are many powers of the personal representative that can be executed without permission of the court. This list of general powers is not exhaustive and there are additional powers of the personal representative that we will review in future blog posts. It is important to remember that the personal representative is in charge of the protection, and ultimately the distribution of the assets of the estate to the beneficiaries or heirs. Florida law is designed to allow for the personal representative to have the powers required to conduct these duties in an efficient manner.
If you have been named as a personal representative in a will or have lost a loved one and think that you may be qualified to act as personal representative if there is no will, contact us today for a free consultation. In a Florida probate proceeding, the personal representative needs to hire an attorney that will work with the personal representative as a team in order to achieve the efficient administration of the probate estate. A probate attorney is a valuable resource for a personal representative and should be someone you trust. Our attorneys look forward to talking with you about your probate issues.
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