Whenever a person dies, his or her property needs to be collected and distributed to heirs. Estate administration involves gathering the assets of the estate, paying the decedent’s debts, and distributing the remaining assets to heirs.
WHAT IS AN EXECUTOR?
An executor is someone named in a will, or appointed by the court, to gather the decedent’s property, pay the decedent’s debts, and distribute assets to the heirs. The traditional name for this person is “Executor,” but Florida calls this person the “Personal Representative” of the Estate.
Typical duties of the Personal Representative include:
- Gathering property of the estate
- Maintaining property until the estate is settled (e.g., upkeep of a house)
- Paying bills for the estate
- Paying taxes on the estate
- Preparing and presenting “accountings” of the assets and distributions
- Making court appearances for the estate
- Distributing assets according to the will
- The money to perform these duties comes from the estate itself. If the will is complex, or if significant court time is required, an executor may want to hire a lawyer to assist in the handling of the estate, also at the estate’s expense.
Needless to say, the process of estate administration takes time and costs money for the Personal Representative, attorney, and others who assist with administration. If the estate is simple, the cost may be small. If the estate is complex, the cost will be significantly higher and take longer. These are reasons many people seek to “avoid probate” (i.e., avoid Estate Administration). Indeed, it is often quicker, less expensive, and easier to prepare a Trust to manage assets than to pass the assets through Probate Court using a will.
For more information, please consult this web site for Trust Administration and download the Life Planning Guide that explains the difference between these planning documents.