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Florida Probate Statute 733.602: General Duties

The personal representative of an estate is charged with the responsibilities of settling a decedent’s affairs and distributing the estate assets. The job involves the personal representatives being given control over the financial affairs of the decent. He (or she) must make sometimes complicate decisions that will impact the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs. Because of the amount of responsibility a personal representative has and the impact of his decisions, the relationship between a personal representative and the beneficiaries is a fiduciary relationship. As long as the personal representative acts in accordance with this high standard, he or she will be shielded from personal liability with respect to the actions he takes to manage the estate. To learn more about the responsibilities of a personal representative, including the requirements of Florida Statutes, section 733.602- General duties, contact a skilled Fort Lauderdale estate administration attorney at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates for guidance.

General Duties of a Personal Representative

Standard of care. Under of Florida Statutes, section 733.602- General duties, a personal representative appointed by the probate court to settle the estate of a decedent and distribute estate assets is a fiduciary just like a trustee is a fiduciary. As a result, a personal representative is required to observe the standards of care applicable to trustees. This means that the personal representative is required to act only in the best interest of the estate and its beneficiaries. He (or she) must also remain impartial and not favor the interests of one beneficiary over another unless the decedent’s will requires that the personal representative do so. The personal representative must also manage the assets of the estate and fulfill the requirements of the will with reasonable care.

Best interests of interested parties . Another one of the general duties of the personal representative is to settle and distribute the estate of the decedent as quickly and efficiently as possible. The personal representative is to use the authority conferred in the Probate Code, authority given in the will, if any, as well as authority given by court orders for the best interests of the interested parties.

Liability of personal representative. The Probate Code provides that a personal representative will not be held liable for actions that he or she performs with respect to managing the estate as long as the actions were authorized. An action is authorized if allowed by the Probate Code, by the will, or by an order of the Court.

Specific Duties of a Personal Representative

Once a personal representative has been issued letters, there are three main duties that he or she must take care of.

  • Take control of estate assets. As an experienced estate administration attorney in Fort Lauderdale will explain, one of the first responsibilities of a personal representative is to identify and take control of the assets that are part of the decedent’s probate estate. The assets must be inventoried and appraised. The inventory of the assets must include a description of each piece of real and personal property along with its fair market value as of the date of the decedent’s death. This inventory must be filed with the probate court. In addition, the personal representative must safeguard estate assets to avoid the value of the estate being diminished due to damage, theft, or neglect.
  • Pay estate debt and expenses. One of the top priorities of the estate administration process is to make sure that debt owed by the decedent and expenses incurred by the estate are paid. In fact, Florida law requires that the personal representative pay valid and timely filed claims and expenses of administration prior to distributing assets. Failure to do so may result in the personal representative facing personal liability. Estate debts may include bills that were outstanding at the time of the decedent’s death such as personal loans, car loans, and credit card bills, as well as claims filed against the deceased after his (or her) death such as a personal injury claim. However, there is a specific timeframe for filing claims. Creditors who miss the deadline will have a tougher time receiving payment.
  • Distribute estate assets. After debts and expenses are paid, the personal representative must distribute the property that remains in the estate to beneficiaries named in the will. The beneficiaries are likely to include family members and friends. The beneficiaries may also include charitable organizations, religious organizations, and institutions of higher learning. If there is no will to direct the personal representative as to how to distribute estate assets, then the personal representative must follow the directive in the Florida Probate Code related to intestate succession asset distribution. As a skilled Florida estate administration lawyer will explain, under the intestacy rules, estate assets will go to the surviving spouse and children of the decedent. If there is no surviving spouse or children, the assets will go the decedent’s closest next of kin such as his siblings, parents or grandparents.
Related Statutory Provisions
  1. Petition: § 733.202, Fla. Stat.
  2. Notice of administration; filing of objections: § 733.212, Fla. Stat.
  3. Notice to creditors; filing of claims: § 733.2121, Fla. Stat.
  4. Adjudication before issuance of letters: § 733.2123, Fla. Stat.
  5. Probate as prerequisite to judicial construction of will: § 733.213, Fla. Stat.
FL. Stat, Section 733.602- General Duties
  1. A personal representative is a fiduciary who shall observe the standards of care applicable to trustees. A personal representative is under a duty to settle and distribute the estate of the decedent in accordance with the terms of the decedent’s will and this code as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate. A personal representative shall use the authority conferred by this code, the authority in the will, if any, and the authority of any order of the court, for the best interests of interested persons, including creditors.
  2. A personal representative shall not be liable for any act of administration or distribution if the act was authorized at the time. Subject to other obligations of administration, a probated will is authority to administer and distribute the estate according to its terms. An order of appointment of a personal representative is authority to distribute apparently intestate assets to the heirs of the decedent if, at the time of distribution, the personal representative is not aware of a proceeding challenging intestacy or a proceeding questioning the appointment or fitness to continue. Nothing in this section affects the duty of the personal representative to administer and distribute the estate in accordance with the rights of interested persons.
Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience representing clients in matters related to the administration of testate and intestate estates, estate disputes and litigation, and other estate matters. If you have questions related to the duties and authority of a personal representative, including the requirements of Florida Probate Code, section 733.602- General duties, we can help. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.

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