Responsibilities of the Executor of a Will in Florida

By Beverly Bird

Virtually anyone older than 18 can serve as the executor of a will and estate in Florida, according to the Bryant Law Firm in Miami. The law bars only minors or anyone with a felony conviction. Under Probate Rule of Court 5.030, however, you might be required to hire an attorney to represent you through the process, unless the decedent has not included any beneficiaries in the will.

Location of Assets

An executor’s first responsibility involves identifying all the assets of the deceased’s estate. According to Russell A. Winer, an attorney in St. Petersburg, assets include automobiles, stocks, bonds, bank and investment accounts, real estate, and any valuable collections such as artwork or stamps. The Bryant Law Firm advises that the most significant of these items might need appraisals. Within three months of the estate entering probate, you must file an inventory with the court detailing every asset you have identified.

Filing Claims

Once you have accounted for all tangible assets, you must file any necessary claims to secure money that might be due to the decedent. You will need to notify the Social Security Administration of her death, as well as the Veterans Administration, if applicable; Medicare; and annuity, pension or retirement fund institutions. If any individuals owed the decedent at the time of her death, it is your responsibility to secure those payments as well. The Bryant Law Firm suggests notifying the deceased’s employer, if she had one, to make sure the estate gets any benefits she would be due, as well as any outstanding salary or wages.

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Notification and Payment of Creditors

You must next issue a Notice to Creditors to everyone the decedent owed money to. In some cases, you might also have to publish the notice in a newspaper. Creditors have three months to make their claim against the estate. Once they do, you must review the claims to determine if they are valid and either pay the debt or file an objection to the debt with the court, according to Winer. You must also file and prepare tax returns for the deceased, as well as for the estate if the estate earns $600 or more during the probate process.

Distribution of Assets

Winer says that in general, beneficiaries do not receive their inheritances until after all creditors, estate expenses and taxes are paid. If assets are not sufficient to cover all the debts, expenses and taxes, spouses and children of the decedent may still be eligible for up to $18,000 in an allowance for sustenance. You will have to apply for this on their behalf. Florida Statute 732.402 also protects up to $20,000 of the decedent’s personal property, such as furniture, from liquidation to pay the estate’s creditors and you would have to ask the court for this dispensation, as well.

Final Accounting

Once all expenses are paid, taxes are filed, and all the beneficiaries receive their bequests and allowances, you must file a Final Accounting with the court, as well as a Petition for Discharge, to be officially relieved of your duties. The Bryant Law Firm indicates that you might also have to supply the court with proof of all the payments to creditors and evidence of the distribution of assets to beneficiaries.

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Wills & Estates in Florida
 

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Alabama only probates certain property located within the state. Anything owned by the testator, or the person who made the will, that passes directly to someone else does not require probate. Such assets include retirement accounts and life insurance policies with named beneficiaries. These assets do not require probate to transfer ownership of title. Alabama also allows homestead and property allowances that may exempt any other property the testator owned. Consult with an attorney to be sure you identify all of the testator’s property correctly and figure out if probate is even required at all.

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Probate is the process of settling a decedent's estate under court supervision. State law may establish an informal probate process for small estates. The executor named in a person's will -- who may be called a personal representative in some states, or an administrator if court-appointed -- must gather and preserve the estate assets and then pay the decedent's debts and taxes before distributing any remaining assets of the estate to the beneficiaries, once the creditors are paid.

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Although probate has a reputation for being time-consuming and complicated, the entire process can be completed in Pennsylvania in as little as 3 to 6 months. Appearances in court can be limited to less than half an hour in the office of the Register of Wills. Executors are not required representation by an attorney, although it is a good practice to consult with a lawyer so you are sure you understand the laws.

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