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Florida Probate Statute 733.303: Persons Not Qualified

The personal representative of an estate has the job of winding down a decedent’s estate and distributing the decedent’s probate assets to his (or her) beneficiaries or heirs. The job can be difficult, involving handling the affairs the decedent left behind, making sure the decedent’s assets end up where they are supposed to based on Florida law and the decedent’s will (if any), and dealing with sometimes difficult family situations. The decisions that the personal administrator makes can have a significant impact on the value of the decedent’s estate and what is available to distribute. Thus, Florida law has very detailed and strict rules related to who can serve as a personal representative and who cannot. If you would like to learn more about the process of being appointed a personal representative, and what factors could disqualify a petitioner, contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale estate administration at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates, who understand the process for becoming a personal representative, including the rules in Florida Statutes, section 733.303- Persons not qualified.

Who Cannot Serve as Personal Representative

In Florida, according to Florida Statutes, section 733.303- Persons not qualified. Convicted felons and those who are under 18 years old are ineligible to serve as personal representatives. Similarly, those who are mentally or physically unable to do the job are not eligible. This does not mean that anyone who petitions the court to be appointed personal representative would be approved. The court prefers to appoint someone who has an interest in the estate or a familial relationship with the decedent. Personal representatives in Florida are selected based on a statutory order of preference as follows:

If the decedent left a will, the order of preference is:

  • the person named in the will or nominated by a power conferred in the will
  • the successor to the person named in the will or nominated by a power conferred in the will
  • the person selected by a majority in interest of the persons entitled to the estate
  • the person who the probate court judge determined is the best-qualified devisee
  • any capable person appointed by the probate court judge

If the decedent did not leave a will, the order of preference is:

  • the decedent’s surviving spouse, if any
  • the person selected by a majority in interest of the heirs
  • the heir nearest in degree
  • any capable person appointed by the probate court judge
Nonresidents

Generally, individuals who do not live in Florida are not eligible to serve as a Florida personal representative. However, there are exceptions. A nonresident can serve in this role if the person is a legally adopted child or adoptive parent of the decedent; is relate to the decedent by lineal consanguinity; a spouse or a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece of the decedent, or someone related by lineal consanguinity to any such person; or the spouse of a person who is a qualified nonresident.

If you have questions concerning whether or not you or another person is qualified to be a personal representative, contact an experienced estate administration lawyer in Fort Lauderdale.

Example

Jack and Frank were best friends. They have known each other for over 40 years. Both were widowers, and neither had children. Jack passed away without leaving a will. His best friend, Frank, petitioned the court to be appointed the personal representative of Jack’s estate. Jack’s sister, Amy, was Jack’s closet relative. Jack and Sarah had never been close and had not seen each other in over 10 years. Nonetheless, being Jack’s intestate heir, Sarah also petitioned the court to be appointed the personal representative of Jack’s estate. As an experienced Fort Lauderdale estate administration attorney will explain, although Frank had a closer relationship to Jack than Sarah, the court would appoint Sarah based on the statutory order of preference.

This example presents one of several compelling arguments to write a will. Not only will you retain control over who gets your property, you will also retain control over who will be responsible for managing your estate after you pass away.

Corporations

A personal representative does not have to be an individual. It can be a company. Trust companies, banks, and savings and loans that are authorized to exercise fiduciary powers in Florida can act as personal representatives of estates.

Related Statutory Provisions
  1. Preference in appointment of personal representative : § 733.301, Fla. Stat.
  2. Who may be appointed personal representative : § 733.302, Fla. Stat.
  3. Nonresidents : § 733.304, Fla. Stat.
  4. Trust companies and other corporations and associations: § 733.305, Fla. Stat.
FL. Stat, Section 733.303- Persons not Qualified
  1. A person is not qualified to act as a personal representative if the person:
    1. Has been convicted of a felony.
    2. Is mentally or physically unable to perform the duties.
  2. If the person named as personal representative in the will is not qualified, letters shall be granted as provided in s. 733.301.
Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you have concerns related to whether you or someone else is qualified to serve as a personal representative to an estate of a decedent, discuss your concerns with an experienced estate administration attorney. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have over twenty years of experience representing clients in matters related to the administration of estates, and understand the requirements of the Florida Probate Code, including the requirements of Florida Statutes, section 733.303- Persons not qualified. We can help. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.

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