Qualifications of a Florida Estate Personal Representative
The “Personal Representative” (commonly known as the “Executor” in other states) is responsible for the administration of a decedent’s estate in Florida.
Florida law permits most individuals to serve as a Personal Representative but with some key exceptions. An individual is not qualified to serve as a Personal Representative if the individual (i) has been convicted of a felony, (ii) is under the age of 18 years, or (iii) is mentally or physically unable to perform the duties of a Personal Representative.
May a Florida Personal Representative Live Outside Florida?
Many people choose to live out their last years in Florida. However, their children or close friends may not live in Florida. Fortunately, an individual does not have to be a Florida resident to serve as a Personal Representative if they meet certain statutory requirements. A nonresident of Florida may serve as Personal Representative if the nonresident is either:
- A legally adopted child or adoptive parent of the decedent;
- A spouse or brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece of the decedent, or someone related by lineal consanguinity to any such person; or
- The spouse of a person otherwise qualified under (1) or (2).
Who has Preference in Appointment as Personal Representative?
A properly drafted Last Will and Testament will typically nominate a specific individual (sometimes multiple individuals) to serve as Personal Representative of a decedent’s estate. If the individual nominated to serve is qualified to serve under Florida law (as explained above), then the probate court must give preference in appointment to that nominated individual.
If a decedent dies without having executed a Last Will and Testament, or if the nominated individual in the Will is not statutorily qualified, then Florida law dictates who has preference in appointment as Personal Representative. If the decedent died survived by a spouse, then the surviving spouse has priority of appointment. If the decedent was not survived by a spouse (or if the spouse declines to serve), then a majority of the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate can select a person to serve as Personal Representative. Finally, if a majority of the beneficiaries are unable to agree on the selection of a Personal Representative, then the heir nearest in degree to the decedent has preference in appointment.