When a person dies without a will here in Florida, they are said to have died “intestate,” and all decisions regarding their estate will be dictated by state law and the local probate court. Without a will, a judge will also bear the responsibility of choosing an Executor or Personal Representative to oversee the deceased’s final affairs.
Becoming someone’s Personal Representative, however, is not as easy as calling up the court and volunteering for the position. There is a formal process that any candidate will need to go through if they wish to be considered.
First and foremost, the candidate will need to be qualified to serve according to state law. Each state has different rules that outline who can serve, and their priority of being chosen. Surviving spouses are usually given first priority, with children to follow. From there, other family members may be considered. If you are low on the priority list but other family members do not want the job, you may be able to get written permission from them to “move ahead in line.”
Once it’s determined that you are eligible to serve, or that you have permission to serve from those who have priority over you, the next step is to formally petition the court by filing what’s generally called a Petition for Probate and a Notice of Petition to Administer Estate. With your filing, you will likely have to pay a fee and provide a copy of the death certificate, an estimated value of the estate, and a detailed list (including names and addresses) of surviving heirs.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
Dealing with the probate court can be tricky, and most people end up contacting a lawyer for assistance. Doing so can be particularly helpful if there is a dispute amongst family members over who will serve as Personal Representative or you are unclear of your rights. From there, your attorney can help you handle the financial and tax filings, manage legal deadlines, and help you avoid any liability with heirs for something unintentionally gone wrong.
If you would like to discuss becoming the administrator of your loved one’s estate who has recently passed away without a will, we’d be happy to speak with you. Contact our Brandon probate law firm at (813) 438-8503 to schedule an initial consultation.