General.

Protecting assets of a person who has died is an important job. In Florida that person is called a Personal Representative. That person may have been designated in a Will or, if there is no will or designation, usually by those family members provided for by statute.

The Personal Representative is appointed by the probate court and must take an oath of office, and posts bond (if required). The Personal Representative is authorized to administer the decedent’s estate. The probate court will issue documents called “letters of administration”which are the evidence that the person named therein has the authority to deal with and manage the decedent’s property.

Duty to Administer Fairly.

A duly appointed Personal Representative is a fiduciary. Acting as a fiduciary means the Personal Representative has a duty to fairly carry out the administration of the Estate. The Personal Representative stands in a position of trust to the estate and its beneficiaries, and is personally responsible to the valid creditors (including the taxing authorities) and beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate for a proper administration. If the estate is administered properly, the Personal Representative is not, however, personally responsible for the payment o f the debts of the estate.

The Personal Representative must not commingle any of his or her own funds with the assets of the estate and must act in a reasonable manner with all assets of the estate and must act in a reasonable manner in every aspect of the administration of the estate.

The guidance to administer an estate is important. Selecting an attorney with experience to guide you through the process will make your Personal Representative’s task easer and with less peril.