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When am I able to act as the executor?

When someone dies in Florida, we often get phone calls regarding their loved one's bank or financial accounts. Typically, the family is at the decedent's bank and the bank is telling them that they need to become the executor (also known as personal representative). The family may even have the last will and testament, but what are the next steps?

One important aspect of the Florida probate process is the estate and the ability act for and bind the estate. First, the probate estate extends only to assets in the decedent's own, individual name.  These assets are distributed according to the decedent's last will and testament. If the decedent did not have a last will and testament, his or her estate is distributed to the decedent's family in accordance with Florida's law of intestacy.

Next, the last will and testament only nominates the personal representative (a/k/a the "executor").  The personal representative is only able to act upon the estate assets once appointed by the probate court. To confirm, the nominated personal representative is only able to act after petition and appointment by the probate court. This means that one of the first steps to the probate process is finding and hiring the right probate attorney. Once appointed by the probate court, the personal representative is issued "letters of administration" which will now enable him or her to act on the estate's behalf.

The process of having someone appointed as the personal representative by the probate court typically takes 2-3 weeks in Pinellas County. The attorney will generally need the following information in order to prepare the court petition:

  • Original Last Will and Testament
  • Original Death Certificate (short form)
  • Address of all heirs
  • General list of assets that needs to be probated

Once this information is gathered, the probate attorney can move forward with a Petition for Administration, which will admit the will to probate and allow the personal representative to act.

If you are dealing with the recent death of a loved one, you may want to read a copy of our free book, Navigating the Florida Probate Process.

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D. Rep DeLoach III
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Estate Planning and Board Certified Elder Law Attorney
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