When someone dies and leaves a will, probate is the legal process for transferring asset ownership and settling the estate. Depending on the size and complexity of the estate, the probate process can take months or even years.
Although a judge oversees the process, the person who does the majority of the work is the personal representative.
According to the Florida Courts, someone must file for probate in the county in which the decedent lived. The assigned judge will examine the will to determine its validity, and others have a specific amount of time to contest the will before the probate process proceeds. Probate is necessary for a number of things, which include:
- Transferring ownership of the decedent’s assets
- Paying creditors
- Completing financial affairs of the estate
Role of the personal representative
According to the Florida Bar, the personal representative, also known as an executor in some states, can be an individual, trust company or bank. The will may name a personal representative, or the judge will assign someone. The legal role of the personal representative is to administer the decedent’s estate.
One of the first jobs is to locate and value the decedent’s assets and keep them safe. This person must publish a notice to allow creditors the chance to file a claim for owed debts as well as do the best to find any and all creditors.
The personal representative must maintain upkeep of the estate until its sale or distribution to beneficiaries. This means continuing to pay necessary bills, such as the mortgage, and caring for the property and grounds. He or she must also file and pay taxes for the estate.
The personal representative must locate all beneficiaries and distribute the assets after paying valid credit claims and estate-related expenses. After the completion of all necessary duties, the judge closes the estate.
The personal representative does not perform the role for free. The decedent either outlines the fee in the will, or the judge will determine appropriate pay for the work done.