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Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group
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Should You Serve as a Personal Representative?


Almost every estate needs someone to collect estate assets and pay creditor claims. This person is the personal representative of the estate. In Florida, a person will name a personal representative in their will. However, the person named can still decline to serve, and everyone nominated should give careful consideration before agreeing to serve.

At our firm, we meet with people who have been nominated to serve as the personal representative of an estate but don’t know whether it is a good idea. Below, we look at some of the questions you should ask yourself before agreeing to serve.

Are You Organized?

A personal representative has many duties, including:

  • Filing documents with the court
  • Finding and safeguarding assets, such as a loved one’s vehicles or possessions
  • Buying insurance, if necessary, to protect assets
  • Notifying creditors that the deceased has passed
  • Keep accurate financial records for the estate
  • Paying creditor claims in a timely manner
  • Communicating with heirs and beneficiaries of the estate

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. Some people become overwhelmed with their duties. If you are not organized as a person, you might want to hire a lawyer to tackle probate for you, or you might want to decline to serve.

Can You Handle Conflict?

Most estates are probated without any conflict. Nevertheless, the opportunity always exists that heirs and beneficiaries are unhappy with what they have received under the will. They could try to invalidate the will or they could question many of the decisions you make.

If the estate has large debts, the personal representative might be tasked with selling estate assets to cover the bills. This means someone is not going to get the property they were expecting, which could leave them justifiably upset. You might be accused of favoritism in your duties, even when you think you are following the law. Some family members harbor resentment for years after an estate is probated.

One good way to answer this question is to consider how well you have handled conflict in the family up to this point. Are you easily angered or bullied? Do you worry excessively about what people think? If so, you might need help probating the estate.

Do You Have the Time to Devote to Your Duties?

The amount of work typically depends on the size of the estate. If it is small, then you might use summary administration and save a lot of work. Larger estates, or estates that are very complicated, could eat up more time than you feel comfortable with.

Can You Ask for Help?

Some people wrongly think they should be able to handle all estate business by themselves. But getting advice is often critical. If you have a tax question, you should meet with an attorney or an accountant. By hiring help, you often can minimize any mistakes and protect yourself from complaints by heirs.

Question about Probate? Contact Us Today

The probate lawyers at the Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group in The Villages have extensive probate experience, and we are here to answer any questions you have. Please call 800-743-9732 to schedule a free consultation.


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