Any interested party can begin the probate process for any particular estate. Oftentimes it’s the person nominated in the last will, who will also be a beneficiary, who’ll get the ball rolling and start the probate process. It’s their job to hire an attorney to represent them during the probate process. That attorney will guide them through the probate process and also handle any pleadings that need to be filed with the probate court.
A personal representative or an executor of an estate has a number of duties but chief among them are gathering the assets of any particular estate such as bank accounts, brokerage accounts, real estate. The second would be assessing what the debts are, paying those debts, handling the taxes. The third would be to make final distributions to whatever beneficiaries that are either designated in a will or are required through the intestate statute.
Typically, the final will will designate whether a bond is required or not. Often, you see that the will will waive any bond requirement, but the judge can decide for themselves whether they feel a bond is appropriate for any particular personal representative.
A personal representative must hire an attorney in order to probate the will in most Florida counties. Every county I’m aware of, the judicial system does not allow a personal representative to represent themselves for the simple reason that the probate process is too complicated for a lay person to go through the court judicial system, and the judges don’t have the tolerance to teach a lay person the law.
Yes, in the state of Florida, like many other states, the personal representative is entitled to a fee for the services they rendered. Often the PR that is selected in the will is also a beneficiary of the estate and a family member of the person who’s passed away. They’ll wave any fee that they might be able to take, but the law does entitle them to reasonable compensation which is typically around 3% of the total estate assets.
You do not have to serve as a personal representative or an executor of an estate just because you are nominated in the will. You’re free to waive that responsibility completely. What would happen is the person who would take over is often named as successor personal representative directly in the will, or the court will select a person who they feel is appropriate to take over.
The person named as personal representative or executor in the will has an option to serve or not to serve. If they make the choice not to serve, they can renounce which is a pleading to the court that they renounced the duty to serve. Normally they’ll consent whoever the family or the beneficiaries they read upon as a substitute personal representative.
In the state of Florida generally the probate court does not supervise the daily activities of the personal representative. What incentivizes the PR to act responsibly is that he can be petitioned to be removed by the beneficiaries of the estate and he can be sued personally by the beneficiaries if he fails to do his duties responsibly.
A personal representative, or executor, is entitled to a fee under Florida statute and that fee is reasonable. There is a statutory formula for determining reasonableness, which is approximately 3%. Many personal representatives who are family members do not take a fee in order to avoid conflict with the other beneficiaries, but there’s a lot of work to be done and I tell beneficiaries to keep track of their time and make a decision later whether they’re going to take a reasonable fee or they’re going to waive a reasonable fee.
Yes, in Florida you’ll be required to hire an attorney to represent the person or representative in a state. The county clerks will not work with lay persons to help file pleadings during the probate process.