The estate planning process is one of the most important steps you can take to retain control over your assets and determine how you would like them to be distributed. It also involves your loved ones: when you name a beneficiary or beneficiaries, they go through probate first before distribution can occur. You will also name an executor, an individual who will oversee your estate after your death. Now, what are some considerations to keep in mind when it comes to a personal representative vs. a beneficiary and vs. an executor?
Personal Representative vs. Beneficiary
Let’s talk about some key terms in the estate planning process. A beneficiary is someone to whom you want to leave assets, while a personal representative is someone named by you to oversee the distribution of your assets. So what’s the difference between a personal representative vs. an executor? Nothing. They’re both terms for the person you want to handle the distribution aspect of your will.
A personal representative or executor can also be a beneficiary. This is the most common route: they’re named in the will as an heir but also assigned the role of watching over asset distribution.
Quick Note: if someone dies without a will, has not named an executor, or the named executor does not want to or cannot act in this capacity, the probate court will appoint an administrator to handle distribution.
Under Florida law, your personal representative must be:
- A Florida resident OR a spouse, child, parent, sibling, or another close relative
- At least 18 years of age
- Mentally and physically capable of performing his or her role
As well, your personal representative cannot have a felony conviction.
What Does Your Personal Representative Do?
In Florida, personal representatives have a number of responsibilities, including:
- Finding the most current version of your estate plan
- Filing relevant court documents on time
- Creating an inventory of your assets in alignment with your estate documents (e.g. will, trust, etc.)
- Notifying creditors of your passing
- Protecting and preserving your assets
- Paying taxes (e.g. estate taxes, income taxes, etc.)
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries
- Meeting other terms as stated in the will (e.g. arranging for the care of a pet)
- Handling conflicts and disputes
It’s a lot to take on; be sure your personal representative is aware of the responsibilities and up to the task. There are some protections as well, such as the right to receive a share of the estate. They should also speak with their own attorney or yours, with permission, to ensure they are meeting their obligations.
If you have questions about either naming a personal representative or acting as one on behalf of a loved one, do not hesitate to contact Elder Law.