A parent or other person dear to you has recently passed away and the job of executor of a will has fallen on your shoulders, but what exactly does that mean for you? You sincerely want to carry out your loved one’s wishes as they see fit, but you may not know what to do first or even where to turn for advice. Being an executor of a will in Florida, also known as a personal representative, carries with it certain obligations and procedures that must be followed to ensure that all parties involved receive what they are entitled to and that the estate of the deceased is closed according to Florida law. This can be a time-consuming and often confusing process, but one in which the estate planning and administration attorneys at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A. are uniquely qualified to assist with.
Can Anyone be Named the Executor of a Will?
The law in Florida is actually quite clear about who is able to serve as the executor of a will. First, they must be over the age of 18 and not be mentally incapacitated as such that they would be unable to do the job. They must also be a resident of the state of Florida unless they are a relative of the deceased, such as a spouse or other close family member. In some instances, a trust company or a bank is named as the executor of a will, which may be beneficial if the deceased had a rather large estate. A trust company or bank acting as the executor of a will is subject to different restrictions than those placed on individuals.
What Does the Executor of a Will Do?
In short, the executor of a will is tasked with distributing the assets of the deceased’s estate to beneficiaries, paying off debts and executing the decedent’s final wishes. Many people believe that being the executor of a will is a rather straightforward process since the actions you must take should be written in the will, however, this is often far from the case. Each person’s situation will be a little different and have its own edge cases that may not come into view until digging a little deeper. Let’s look at some of the basic duties of the executor of a will.
- Gather all of the decedent’s financial affairs. All accounts and assets now belong to you and it is the job of the executor of a will to obtain them. This includes things like cars and real estate, but could also include safe deposit boxes and digital assets like social media accounts and passwords to gain access to credit card and checking accounts.
- Deposit the Will with the court. It is imperative by Florida law that this is accomplished within 10 business days. Furthermore, the court will only accept original wills and you may be charged with a penalty for not depositing it within the required time frame.
- Scour the financial records to find any possible creditors. There could be creditors that will make claims on the decedent’s estate that you are not aware of. If they haven’t been notified of the death already, you will also need to do that.
- Prepare and file the decedent’s final tax returns.
- Collect data on everything in the estate. You will need to quantify all of the estate’s assets, meaning make a list of all property and provide an accounting of this along with valuations to the court so that it can be divided amongst beneficiaries properly.
Moreover, it is entirely possible that there could be claims on the estate of the deceased that you may object to. For example, a creditor could demand payment for a debt that you don’t view as valid. In this instance, you will likely have to make your case in court. Defending your case can take some time, depending on the claims made, so being as prepared as possible is critical.
With all of these responsibilities on your plate, it can be easy to accidentally run afoul of the laws of Florida but with the considered guidance of the estate administration and planning attorneys at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A., your tenure as the executor of a will is guaranteed to play out effortlessly.
I’ve Heard That I May be Able to Avoid Probate. Is That Possible?
For the most part, probate is required in Florida to ensure the assets of the deceased are distributed correctly and in keeping with the law. This is because even the smallest estates will likely have accounts or other assets without named beneficiaries or that may have listed the deceased as the sole owner. Basically, all assets need to be transferable to their new owners and the provisions for those transfers need to be clearly delineated in a Will.
Usually, most people that wish to avoid going into probate in Florida will set up a living or revocable trust. The trust is then “funded” with the assets the settlor (person who sets up the trust) would like to place into it. After the settlor passes away, the assets in the trust are then automatically received by a beneficiary. In addition to being skilled counselors for the executor of a will, the attorneys at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A. can answer all of your questions about avoiding probate by contacting us for a consultation, today!
Call Us for a Consultation and Get Your Executor of a Will Questions Answered Today!
Every attorney at the law firm of Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A. possesses a wellspring of knowledge regarding the estate planning and administration process, from drafting an initial last will and testament, to being the executor of a will, to taking large and complicated estates through probate. We will ensure that each box is ticked in conformity with Florida state law, keeping you informed and up-to-date along the way. If your legal duties as the executor of a will seem daunting and overwhelming, let our attorneys help shoulder the burden and untangle the legalese for you.