Lawyer and Out of State Executor Shaking HandsProbate, the legal process of settling a deceased person’s estate, can be time-consuming and emotionally challenging. If the deceased person, or decedent, had a will, they may have already appointed an executor, known in Florida as the "personal representative", for their estate. Personal representatives are typically tasked with initiating and overseeing probate: not only do they have to file a probate petition with the court, but they must inventory the decedent’s assets, manage their investments, and—eventually—disburse inheritances. Ordinarily, serving as an personal representative is difficult. However, non-Florida residents who have been appointed personal representative may find themselves simply struggling to stay atop the Sunshine State’s rigorous expectations

Florida Law for Personal Representatives

Under most circumstances, the personal representative can be anyone: a friend, a family member, or an attorney. The Florida Statutes only require that an executor meet the following requirements:

  • The personal representative should be at least 18 years of age
  • The personal representative should be mentally and physically capable of serving
  • The personal representative cannot have a disqualifying criminal record

The Sunshine State’s Restrictions on Out-of-State Personal Representatives

Florida’s accommodating laws are only applicable to Florida residents. If a personal representative lives in another state, they must be related to the decedent by blood, marriage, or adoption. An out-of-state personal representative could be any of the following:

  • A child or grandchild
  • An adopted child or adoptive parent
  • A sibling, cousin, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew
  • The spouse of most other close relatives

Sometimes, people name non-human entities as their personal representative, such as a bank, trust company, or credit union.

While the Florida Statutes would not ordinarily bar a bank or savings association from serving as an personal representative, they must be authorized to act as a fiduciary in the Sunshine State.

Why Out-of-State Personal Representatives Should Consider Contacting an Attorney

For many people, serving as the personal representative of an estate is an honor: you may have been delegated the position by a close loved one, who knew and trusted that you could oversee their final affairs.

However, acting as personal representative can be incredibly time-consuming for out-of-state residents. You might be expected to:

  1. Regularly travel. Probate is very much a hands-on process for personal representatives. You may be expected to file the initial probate petition in the county where the deceased person lived at the time of their death, painstakingly inventory the decedent’s assets, potentially travel to financial and other institutions holding estate assets, and in rare instances, appear before a judge. Oftentimes, this involves proactively searching for their residence, tracking down bank accounts, and sifting through files to determine whether the deceased person had any additional off-site assets.
  2. Understand Florida state law. While many features of probate are common between states, Florida has its own, unique expectations for how probate should be conducted. For example, if you live in New York but are serving an estate in Florida, you may find that submission timelines between the states are drastically different. If you mistakenly misinterpret state law or make a mistake that impacts the estate’s creditors or beneficiaries, you could be held civilly liable for any resulting damages.
  3. Resolve disputes. If an estate challenge arises—for example, an heir or beneficiary believes that they are entitled to a greater inheritance than indicated in the decedent’s will—you may have to travel to Florida to mediate the dispute or defend the estate in court. In a worst-case scenario, will contests and other common estate-related disputes can take months or even years to resolve.

While personal representatives are entitled to receive fair compensation for their work, their payment is capped and taken directly from the estate. If an out-of-state representative is compelled to repeatedly travel to initiate petitions, file paperwork, and mediate disputes, they may eventually find themselves paying routine expenses from their own pocket.

Contact an Experienced Florida Probate Attorney Today

DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., has decades of experience helping Floridians honor their lost loved ones’ legacies. Please send us a message online or contact us at 727-397-5571 to speak to a legal professional and schedule your initial consultation.