Normally an executor is named in a will, but when someone dies without a will, the court must appoint an executor to administer the estate. In Florida, an executor is called a "personal representative." Florida law dictates who has priority to become the personal representative of an estate.
Who May Serve
A person who is legally capable of handing his own affairs, is at least 18 years old, and is a Florida resident at the time of the decedent's death may be the personal representative. A person may not be appointed personal representative if she has been convicted of a felony or is mentally or physically incapable of performing the required duties. A person who is not a resident of Florida may be appointed personal representative only if the nonresident is a blood relative of the decedent, is a legally adopted child or adoptive parent of the decedent, or is the decedent's surviving spouse.
Preference in Appointment
In an estate without a will, preference for appointment of a personal representative is given to the surviving spouse. If the surviving spouse does not want to be personal representative, preference is then given to the person selected by a majority of the estate's heirs. If the majority of heirs does not select a representative, priority will be given to the person most closely related to the decedent -- often a child. If there is more than one possible appointee, the court may choose what it considers the most qualified heir to be the personal representative.
Application to Become Personal Representative
To become the personal representative, you must file an Application for Administration for an intestate estate. The application must be filled out with the required information, including your priority for being appointed personal representative and the names and addresses of the surviving spouse and all beneficiaries. Florida law requires an applicant for personal representative to be represented by an attorney who can fill out and submit the application. The application must be submitted to the Probate Division for the Circuit Court in the county where the person whose estate is to be administered died.
Providing Notice for Petition of Administration
Notice of the petition for administration does not need to be served when it appears that the petitioner is entitled to preference of appointment as personal representative. For example, this applies if the surviving spouse wants to be personal representative because the surviving spouse is given first priority. Before a person who is not entitled to preference is appointed as personal representative by a court, however, a formal notice must be served on all known persons who meet the qualifications of being appointed personal representative and are entitled to equal or greater preference as the applicant. Notice does not need to be served to qualified persons who have waived their right in writing to become personal representative.