If you have been named as the personal representative, also known as an executor, to an estate, you have been given a solemn and complex responsibility. As the personal representative, you are required to follow several legal and formal steps to close the estate, and each of these steps has complicated requirements of their own.
One of the very first things that must be done when someone passes away is to notify any potential heirs to the deceased person's property. It's your responsibility to serve this document, called the Notice of Administration, on all interested persons to the estate.
What Is a Notice of Administration?
The Notice of Administration informs relatives of a deceased person (called the decedent) that they may be affected by the outcome of upcoming court proceedings. Interested parties must be formally notified of the passing of the decedent, and information regarding the estate administration, so that they have the opportunity to protect their interest in a decedent's property.
Where Do I Send the Notice of Administration?
Florida law requires a personal representative to send notice of administration on the following parties:
- The decedent's surviving spouse
- Beneficiaries to the estate
- The trustee and each beneficiary of any trust included in the estate
- Any other parties who may be entitled to property from the estate
If any party is a minor or under legal guardianship, you must notify the party's natural parent, custodian, or appointed guardian. While you may not be required to serve Notice of Administration on everyone in the decedent's family, it may be a good idea to notify certain interested persons (such as heirs who have been intentionally disinherited). This will give all parties a chance to object to the provisions of the will during probate.
What Information Should I Include in the Notice of Administration?
The law requires Notice of Administration to be sent "promptly," so it's a good idea to send it out as soon as possible. Since the serving of the Notice starts the clock on the time limit to file a response, you may wish to send the document through certified mail with a return receipt, by a process server, or other method where the delivery of the Notice cannot be disputed.
Under Florida law, the Notice of Administration must contain the following information:
- The decedent's name
- The file number of the estate
- The title and address of the court where administration proceedings have been filed
- Whether the decedent had a will, and if so, the date of the will and any codicils
- The name and address of the personal representative, the name and address of your attorney, and notice of the fiduciary lawyer-client privilege
- Notice that any interested person served with a Notice of Administration must file any objections to proceedings no later than three months after the date of service of the Notice of Administration, including those that would challenge the validity of the will, the venue, or the jurisdiction of the court
- Notice that any person who could be entitled to exempt property waives their rights to claim that property unless they file a petition for determination of exempt property no later than four months after the date of service of the Notice of Administration
- Notice to a surviving spouse of the rights and limitations to file for an elective share of the property, including the requirement to file for election six months after the date of service of the Notice of Administration on the surviving spouse or two years after the date of the decedent's death (whichever is earlier)
- That any notified person who fails to contest the will waives their right to contest the validity of a trust or other legal documents incorporated into the will
The failure to serve the Notice of Administration in accordance with state law can cause many problems, including challenges to the will, claims against the personal representative, and expensive estate litigation. At DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, our estate administration attorneys can walk you through the probate process, ensuring all duties are performed to the letter of the law. Contact us today to set up a consultation and get answers to your questions.