The Appointment of a Personal Representative
In Florida, the person appointed by the court to administer a decedent’s estate is known as a personal representative. You nominate a personal representative in your will. In some states the person nominated is referred to as an executor (female: executrix), but this term is no longer used in Florida.
You should nominate a substitute personal representative in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to act. Choose someone you believe to be competent and trustworthy and who is familiar with your affairs.
Who can be a personal representative?
Under Florida’s Probate Code, any Florida resident at the time of your death and who is legally competent may serve as personal representative, except for:
- someone convicted of a felony
- someone mentally or physically incapable of performing the necessary duties
- someone under the age of 18
Residency in Florida is not required for certain close relatives of the decedent. Trust companies incorporated under Florida law, as well as banks and savings and loan associations authorized to exercise fiduciary powers in Florida, are qualified to serve.
Whom will the court appoint?
When several people apply to the court to be appointed personal representative, the order of preference under which the court appoints the personal representative depends on whether or not there is a will. Where there is a will (a testate estate) the order is:
- the person chosen in the will, or under a power contained in the will, or their successor
- someone chosen by a majority in interest of those entitled to your estate
- someone who inherits under your will and if there is more than one such person, the court selects the person it thinks is best qualified
Where there is no will (an intestate estate) the order is:
- your spouse
- someone chosen by a majority of the heirs
- the heir nearest in degree to you, and if there is more than one, the court chooses the person it thinks is best qualified
For both testate and intestate estates, if no application is made by one of the above-mentioned persons, the court chooses someone it regards as a “capable person.” The court cannot choose certain individuals, such as court employees.
If you are a personal representative, an experienced Florida probate lawyer can assist you with the estate administration process.