The executor, or personal representative, of a will is responsible to administer the will on behalf of the decedent pursuant to the terms outlined in the will. Typically, a testator, or person drafting a will, designates an executor in the will. Under Florida law, the executor owes a fiduciary duty to the estate. A fiduciary duty basically means that the executor must at all times act and make decisions in the best interest of the estate.
The executor must collect all property of the estate, including real property, investments, bank accounts and all other assets. The executor must inventory all assets by making a detailed list of all property and document the value of each asset at the time the decedent died. By doing so, the executor compiles the net worth of the estate for tax purposes, to pay debts and distribute assets pursuant to the decedent’s written wishes in the will. If the executor discovers new assets after initially inventorying the estate, the executor must supplement or amend the inventory with the court.
The executor has a duty to ensure that the estate’s value does not decrease pending distribution of the estate’s assets. This means that the executor can sell assets she thinks would decrease in value over time and invest other assets to maximize the estate’s income. In addition, an executor may hire attorney and accountants to help maintain the estate’s value.
The executor must pay all debts and expenses the estate incurs. Paying debts includes using estate assets to pay local, state or federal taxes owed. In addition, the executor must settle any other debts the estate owes using assets owned by the estate.
The executor must distribute the estate’s assets pursuant to the decedent’s will. However, Florida law protects spouses and certain children who survive a decedent from complete disinheritance. This means even if a decedent left a spouse and child nothing in the will, the executor may have to distribute assets to the surviving heirs consistent with Florida law. For instance, a surviving spouse may be entitled to the decedent’s home or may be entitled to claim a 30 percent share of the decedent’s assets.
It is always advisable to contact a qualified attorney licensed to practice in Florida to find out the rights and obligations regarding the duties of an executor under Florida law, which is subject to change.