4 Common Mistakes Executors (Personal Representatives) Make with a Florida Probate
First off, Florida doesn’t use the term “executor.” Rather, an executor is referred to as a “personal representative.” Secondly, Florida law requires anyone possessing an original will to file it with the court within 10 days following the date of death.
Being appointed as a personal representative in someone’s will is a huge responsibility. While it’s certainly great that this person felt they could trust you with their estate, it’s important not to underestimate how much work is truly involved in a Florida probate administration. Very few people are fully prepared for the duties and responsibilities that come along with this position, but hiring a West Palm Beach probate attorney can help. When you retain a skilled attorney to assist, you can eliminate any mistakes and risk of personal liability to yourself.
At the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A., we routinely handle Florida estate planning and probate matters. We have years of experience assisting personal representatives with the seemingly arduous process of closing a person’s estate. Here is a look at four of the most common mistakes personal representatives make while handling Florida probate administrations.
Waiting Too Long to Hire an Attorney
It’s tempting to procrastinate when you feel overwhelmed by the sheer prospect of trying to figure out what to do during the probate process, but procrastination can open the door for all sorts of legal and financial problems. Hire a lawyer right away to help and it will make things run a lot smoother. If you don’t, and you end up making a big mistake, it can cost the estate money and potentially open you up to personal liability in some instances.
You have a fiduciary duty to act in the estate’s best interest and in good faith. It means you are held to a high standard, and failure to act in a responsible manner means you could be held personally responsible for any financial losses incurred.
Failing to Identify and Secure Assets Early On
One of the first duties you have as an executor is to identify and secure all the estate’s assets as soon as possible. Failure to do so can result in financial loss to the estate. Even if the will specifies that a certain item should go to a particular person, you still have to secure it and keep it as part of the estate until it’s the proper time to distribute it.
Improperly Paying Claims Made Against the Estate
When it comes to handling payment of claims made against a decedent’s estate, you cannot pay them in whatever order you feel is best. Creditors’ claims are to be handled in accordance to statutory priorities. The law has set forth a schedule of how claims are to be paid, and it outlines who gets paid and in what order. When you pay out of turn, you could be held personally responsible for paying the creditor a surcharge.
Do Not Ignore the Beneficiaries
Personal representatives tend to get nervous when it comes to beneficiaries. Don’t choose to ignore them, otherwise it could result in them seeking to have you removed if you fail to do what is required of you as an executor.
Contact a Florida Probate Attorney
If you’ve been named an executor in someone’s estate, don’t delay. Contact the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A. today to schedule an initial consultation.