attorney and client discussing being a personal representative for probate

Choosing a Personal Representative for Probate

Part of setting up an estate plan is choosing your personal representative, or, more commonly known as the executor of your estate. For most married couples, the spouse or adult child is the logical choice. However, if you are unsure who is the right choice to handle your estate, here are some tips to help.

Legally Some People Can Not Serve as a Personal Representative

Although every state differs, in Florida, there are four reasons someone would not be able to be named as the personal representative. They are the following:

  1. Anyone convicted of a felony.
  2. A person convicted of elder abuse or abuse of a disabled adult in any state or country.
  3. Someone mentally or physically unable to perform the duties.
  4. A minor under the age of 18.

Keep in mind that the probate process and the job takes time, knowledge and work. Sometimes an adult child may not be the best option if they are not ready for the responsibility.

What Happens if I Don’t Name Someone?

If you have a will but choose not to name a personal representative (or the person you named is deceased), the personal representative is chosen by the beneficiaries. This will happen before probate begins. Although the beneficiaries can choose someone they feel is best equipped to do the job, legally any beneficiary can request a vote by the beneficiaries. The vote is weighted based on the percentage of the estate they are scheduled to inherit. For example, if there is one adult child inheriting 40% of the estate and six grandchildren each inheriting 10%, the adult child would get four votes for each one of the grandchildren’s vote.

Qualities in Your Personal Representative

Probate is a complex and detailed process. The obvious qualities you want your executor to have include honesty and common sense. However, you also want someone who is a strong communicator and is organized. We also recommend that the person you choose knows how to delegate. It is often in their best interest to hire professionals like a tax accountant and probate attorney. If you are trying to choose between multiple children, all of whom would make a good personal representative, you may want to choose the one who lives closest. The person will need to spend time in your home and the area taking care of bills and closing accounts.

Do You Need an Estate Attorney?

Whether you need an estate planning attorney to help you with a will or trust or are a personal representative wanting legal guidance on an estate’s distribution, call Wagstaff & Pitelis. We’re conveniently located in Clearwater, Florida and specialize in estate planning in Florida and helping with estate distribution in Pinellas County. Call us today at (727) 584-8182 or fill out our contact form for your initial consultation.