Serving as a personal representative can be an honor and a big responsibility. If your loved one had a will, he or she may have specifically chosen you to manage his or her final affairs. If your loved one did not have a valid will, a court may have appointed you to manage your loved one’s final affairs.
In general, a personal representative is responsible for guiding the decedent’s estate through probate. Probate is the legal process of collecting your loved one’s assets, paying his or her debts and distributing the rest appropriately.
The time it could take to bring the estate through probate depends on the situation. A simple estate could take about five months. A more extensive or complicated estate may take over a year.
Some tasks you may need to complete as personal representative, include:
- Finding and collecting your loved one’s assets
- Managing those assets until it is time to distribute them
- Using the assets to pay funeral expenses
- Finding and notifying your loved one’s creditors
- Selling your loved one’s real estate
- Using assets in the estate to pay outstanding debts
- Filing tax returns
- Distributing assets according to Florida law or your loved one’s will
- Closing the probate estate
You must complete these and other responsibilities correctly and at precise times. Failing to complete a task or completing it improperly could leave you personally liable. This means that you may need to use your own money to remedy any harm you caused the beneficiaries.
Fortunately, you can employ professionals to help you along the way. Many personal representatives benefit from the help of attorneys, certified public accountants, appraisers, investment advisers and others.
Agreeing to serve as someone’s personal representative can be a very serious and time-consuming commitment, and not everyone is up to the challenge. However, it can be an honor to be chosen for this position, and with the right assistance, managing a loved one’s final affairs will go smoothly and can be a way to celebrate his or her memory.