What does a Personal Representative Do In Florida?

Florida Probate and Debts

Where you named the personal representative of an estate in Florida? Are you unsure of what this even means? Keep reading and we’ll be able to provide you with all the answers to your questions.

Being named the personal representative of a Florida estate essentially means that you will oversee settling the decedent’s (person that has passed away) affairs. This usually happens under the probate court’s supervision in the county where your deceased loved one resided. You may assume you only need to worry about ensuring that cherished items and assets get passed on to their designated beneficiaries. However, you can’t distribute anything until any outstanding debts are settled.

Another complicated aspect of handling probate matters is the liquidation- pretty much an estate sale- of the estate assets to satisfy these debts. Again, how complex or straightforward this process is will depend on the type of property left behind, if there was a will or if they died intestate (without a will) and figuring out what outstanding accounts get priority.

Which Debts Get Paid First in the Florida Probate Process?

Dying and leaving debt behind is something nearly every Floridian will likely do. As an executor (a person who administers someone’s estate upon their death), you will need to ensure any creditor claims are valid and pay them out of the estate’s assets. Maybe your relative left behind credit card bills or had a car loan they were still paying off. Even in situations where they seemed to have passed debt-free, usually, there are at a minimum some medical expenses and burial costs to take care of.

So, which ones do you pay first? Below is an overview of the priority you should give to any bills your loved one owed at the time of their death:

Estate Administration Expenses:

One of the first costs you will have to pay is the estate administration fees. This isn’t a single bill sent to you by the county but consists of several different service providers you’ll rely on to guide you through the Florida probate process.

You can expect to pay some or all the following as part of your estate administration expenses:

  • Probate lawyer to represent you
  • Accountant to determine the total value of the estate
  • Appraiser to determine the value of any assets (house, real estate, antiques, fine art, etc.)

Additionally, Florida Probate law provides a family allowance for a decedent’s surviving spouse and children that relied on them for support. This money is to help assist with living costs, family expenses, and emergency financial support while waiting on the probate process to complete.

Burial Costs

After getting your estate administration services paid for, you will need to ensure all burial and funeral expenses get taken care of. Under Florida law, you may be able to prioritize paying the first $6,000 of these costs as part of the estate’s administration, but it must be reasonable. Again, this limitation isn’t the final amount you are permitted to pay for your loved one’s funeral; it just makes it possible to handle these arrangements sooner.

Remember that whatever costs you incur on top of that initial $6,000 will be your responsibility. If there aren’t enough assets left to pay the outstanding balance once other creditors are paid, the funeral director will be calling you for payment.

Medical Bills and Final Tax Return Filings

When someone dies, they probably needed medical care and incurred a variety of costs, including hospice care, nursing home expenses, and doctor bills. On top of that, they likely have state, federal, and local taxes that will be owed for that year. All of these will need to be taken care of after your administration and burial costs.

Paying Creditors

You will move on to creditors once you have taken care of immediate costs like federal tax payments, funeral expenses, and administrative fees. This could be a mortgage company, credit card bills, and other outstanding accounts your loved one owed money on.

Figuring out who they were in debt to can be challenging, and this part of the probate process can delay things until you’ve completed the task of paying them. Florida law has a strict time window for creditors to file a claim with a decedent’s estate. Once the deadline for doing so has ended, these debts get paid, and the remaining assets are distributed appropriately.

Florida Estates with More Debt Than Assets

If you are the personal representative in a Florida probate proceeding, and the estate you must settle has more debts than assets, you won’t inherit those outstanding accounts. On the other hand, though, you and any designated beneficiaries may receive nothing at all. This situation is known as an insolvent estate.

The presiding court can reduce any inheritance or gifts from your loved one’s estate to settle what’s owed. Any monies that are still outstanding will go unpaid. The probate court is allowed to reduce gifts named in the will to pay off debts.

When acting as the personal representative of a Florida estate, you will have to dedicate a significant amount of time and dedication to settle it. One of the best ways to ensure that you streamline the process and minimize the impact of outstanding debts on the assets left behind is to work with a knowledgeable Florida probate attorney.

Contact us—

The Florida Probate &Family Law Firm provides you with sound legal advice and representation to ensure you protect your deceased loved one’s legacy. Our highly trained probate attorneys have extensive fiduciary experience and regularly represent executors facing insolvent estate situations.

The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm has a team of experienced Probate and Family attorneys located in Coral Gables, Florida. As attorneys who have extensive knowledge in Probate, we understand it can be a time-consuming and complicated process. If you currently have questions regarding a probate issue, contact us to set up an appointment to evaluate your options. We serve the entire state of Florida so call us at 305-677-5119 or email us at info@flpfl.com.

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