So, your Uncle John asked you to be the executor (or, in Florida and a few other states, a “personal representative”) of his will, and you agreed. You’re honored that he trusts you to handle the job, and you want to make sure everything is done right for him. But do you know what all of your responsibilities will be upon his death?
What Is A Personal Representative?
A personal representative (“PR”) is in charge of managing the recently departed’s (the “decedent’s”) estate. Depending on the size of the estate, this can be anywhere from a part-time job to a huge, complicated undertaking. It can take many hours, sometimes over the course of six months to a few years to complete the job. The PR is (and should be) paid a fee by the estate for the job. (Note, this taxable income to the PR).
What Are Some Of The Duties Of A Personal Representative?
Duties will vary from one estate to another, but usually a PR must:
• Determine if probate court proceedings are necessary. A competent trusts and estates attorney can help you with this.
• Locate and manage the decedent’s assets until they can be distributed.
• Deposit the original will in the probate court. This is required by Florida law even if probate proceedings are not needed.
• Publish Notice to Creditors and provide a copy of the Notice to any known potential creditors.
• Review any claims filed in the estate proceeding by creditors and object timely, if necessary. Otherwise, pay any valid claims.
• Obtain an employer/taxpayer identification number (a/k/a EIN or TIN) from the IRS for the estate.
• Open a bank account for the estate to pay debts and expenses, and make distributions.
• File a final income tax return (Form 1040) and pay any taxes due on behalf of the deceased. This will cover the period from the beginning of the tax year to the date of death.
• File any estate tax returns or estate income tax returns (note these are not the same thing!), and pay any taxes due, that may be required.
• Wind up affairs, such as closing bank accounts, canceling credit card accounts or notifying government agencies such as the Social Security Administration of the death.
• Provide the beneficiaries with an accounting of the assets of the estate.
• Distribute the assets to the beneficiaries after all debts and taxes are paid or otherwise settled.
Must I Have An Attorney?
In Florida, a personal representative is required to be represented by an attorney. However, a simplified procedure called a Summary Administration is available where the decedent died more than 2 years ago or the estate’s total assets are under $75,000. That is a subject we will discuss in a later post.
Now that you know the basics, and if you’re still willing to take on the responsibility, the most important thing to do is ask Uncle John where his will is located. That way, you won’t have to spend any time searching through dusty trunks in his attic before getting down to work.
Any other probate questions?
Please feel free to get in touch. Click here to send us an email and find our phone & address info. Click here to learn more about the probate and estate settlement process.
About Oakstone Law, PL
Oakstone Law PL was founded by Bob Kleinknecht. A member of the Family Trust Subcommittee, the Estate Tax & Trust Planning (ETTP) Committee and the Real Property, Probate & Trust Law (RPPTL) Section of the Florida Bar, Kleinknecht has 15 years’ experience.
Prior to founding Oakstone law, he spent more than eight years serving as a personal, in-house estate, tax and charitable planning attorney for a Forbes 400 family in New York and Florida. Before that he was an estate planning and estate settlement attorney with prominent firms in Boston and Washington, D.C. after beginning his career with a boutique firm in Naples, Florida.
Licensed in Florida and Massachusetts, Kleinknecht has developed a practice model that eliminates billing by the hour and offers a streamlined, customized client process supported by technology, security and a personal approach.
For more information on Oakstone Law, click here. To get in touch with us, click here to send us an email, or call 239-206-3454. Our office is located at 5137 Castello Drive, Suite 2 in Naples, Florida 34103.