I Was Named a Personal Representative in a Will. What Does This Mean?

Acting as Personal Representative of a decedent’s (person who has passed away) Estate involves a significant time commitment, attention to detail, and, in some cases, handling conflicts between Heirs and Beneficiaries. There are two ways to be named as a Personal Representative: you could be named in a Last Will and Testament for someone (usually a family member) who has passed away, or, if someone died intestate (without a Will), you could be appointed by the Court. Regardless of how you come into the role, the responsibilities are the same: you must carry out the decedent’s final wishes, pay their final bills, and distribute their assets.

Some of the activities that you can expect to assume as a Personal Representative include:

  • Opening the estate by submitting the Will to the Probate court in the county where the decedent resided, and filing a Petition for Administration.
  • Notifying the Beneficiaries that are named in the Will about the death, or notifying intestate heirs when an estate is being administered without a Will.
  • Marshalling the assets of the decedent and creating an inventory of all the decedent’s assets. This can be time-consuming, especially if the decedent did not keep accurate financial records. Their assets include savings and checking accounts, brokerage accounts, other investment accounts, real estate, jewelry, artwork, physical possessions (clothing, housewares), automobiles, and anything else of value.  
  • Reaching out to creditors and pay any outstanding bills from the decedent. In some cases, selling off assets before paying the creditors may be necessary if the Estate does not have enough cash on hand.
  • Distributing assets to each of the Beneficiaries or Heirs as stipulated by the Will or the laws of intestacy.
  • Pay the Estate’s final taxes.
  • Submit a final accounting to the court to close out the Estate.

While this sounds relatively straightforward, there are risks to acting as a Personal Representative. You may be one of two or more Personal Representatives for the estate. In this case, all the representatives need to come to an agreement on each step of the process before moving forward. The Estate’s Beneficiaries or Heirs may disagree with your approach to managing the estate. If the situation becomes extremely contentious, the Beneficiaries or Heirs could file a lawsuit to have you removed from your role. If you make an error in managing the Estate or breach your duty as a fiduciary, you may be liable for the error.

Due to the time-consuming nature, inherent risks, and detailed knowledge of the law necessary to perform the functions of this role, Personal Representatives often hire an attorney who specializes in the Probate process to guide and protect them. Huth, Pratt, and Milhauser specialize in helping Personal Representatives navigate this labyrinth of rules and responsibilities to simplify the process as much as possible, while providing legal protection. If you have been named as a Personal Representative and don’t know where to start, call us today for expert guidance.

Huth, Pratt and Milhauser

Huth, Pratt and Milhauser is a boutique law firm that offers a wide range of legal services in the specialty areas of wills, trusts, estates, probate, guardianship, and related matters. The range of legal services that Huth, Pratt & Milhauser provides in these specialty areas includes planning, administration and litigation. The experience and skills of our attorneys and staff, coupled with our knowledge of applicable law, enable us to provide outstanding representation to our clients.

Although we are located in South Florida, we proudly serve clients throughout the country and around the world from our Boca Raton offices. We strive to provide superior and focused counsel in a timely manner and at a competitive price.

Huth, Pratt and Milhauser

2500 North Military Trail, Suite 460

Boca Raton, Florida   33431

Phone: 561-392-1800

2500 North Military Trail, Suite 460
Boca Raton, Florida   33431
Phone: 561-392-1800

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