The Executor (also known as the Personal Representative in Florida) of an estate is the individual in charge of administering a decedent’s estate. It’s not just a title either. The Executor is in charge of involved responsibilities from locating the assets in the estate to ensuring the decedent’s Will is followed in administering those assets.
Usually, the testator (the person making the Will) will name the person they want to be the Executor in their Will. If the named person accepts the responsibilities, they are then obligated under Florida law to always do what is best for the estate—this is what’s known as the Executor’s “fiduciary duty.” A breach of this duty, or an allegation thereof, could mean a lawsuit against the person.
With that being said, it is in Executor’s/Personal Representative’s best interest to hire a probate lawyer any time they have been entrusted with this role. Whether it’s your first time being an Executor or your third, here are 7 reasons why you should have a lawyer by your side:
- You don’t want the responsibility. If you are intimidated, afraid, hesitant, or unwilling to take on the responsibilities of an Executor, a lawyer can help you get the court to remove you as the named Executor. If you’re on the fence about taking on the role, you can schedule a consultation with us and we will explain everything you need to know so you are equipped for the road ahead.
- You don’t understand what exactly is expected of you. We will walk you through your responsibilities every step of the way and we will be by your side through to the end. We will help ensure you understand the step-by-step of the Florida probate process.
- You need help finding and valuing the assets in the estate. As the Executor, you are expected to locate all the assets of the estate. This includes any real property, bank accounts, stocks, etc. Don’t worry, you will be paid a percentage from the assets of the estate for the hard work that you put into being the Executor.
- You need help preserving the value of the estate. You are expected to preserve the value or maximize the value of the estate. This means you have the power to sell assets that may depreciate in value or invest the assets that will increase in value. However, this can be a delicate process as beneficiaries and heirs may not agree with your decisions. Either way, we can help you cover all of your bases.
- Debts and taxes. You will be in charge of paying the decedent’s creditors, which includes any taxes owed. Since this is a large portion of your responsibilities, you should always seek legal guidance to ensure that you are meeting all the tax requirements, and not overpaying/underpaying any one debt. We can help you file tax returns and defend against creditors with large claims on the estate.
- You need help distributing the rest of the estate to the beneficiaries and heirs. We will review the Will and other estate planning documents the decedent left behind. We will help make sure that you administer the remaining assets (after the legal fees and the creditors have been paid) properly. A lot of the things you will have to do at this stage will involve Florida laws, so you definitely need to have a lawyer if you are still not convinced you need one at this point.
- Getting discharged from your duties and ensuring your rights are upheld. After you’ve done your duties, you then have to report to the court every legal activity you did for the estate before it can officially be closed. We can help you compile this report to present to the judge, who will then file an order to close the estate and discharge you once they are satisfied.
As you can see, going through the probate process is no simple matter. As the Executor, you will have to take on many responsibilities and faithfully execute a decedent’s wishes. However, you shouldn’t be discouraged, because with a Florida probate lawyer by your side, you will never have to go through anything alone. We at Stivers Law have dedicated our practice to Florida probate law and would love to help you. Contact us today to schedule a strategy session or call us at 305-456-3255. Hablamos Español!