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Risks personal representatives face during probate proceedings

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2024 | Estate Administration

The personal representative or executor of a Florida state has a variety of responsibilities to fulfill. They usually have to manage estate matters for over a year. The probate process can be quite complex, and those overseeing the estate of another person may even have a degree of personal liability.

Estate administration can be a demanding and frustrating process for those concerned about the legacy of the deceased individual. Those who educate themselves about their personal risks can limit the possibility of having any personal setbacks caused by estate administration. The following are the most common issues that personal representatives need to understand before accepting responsibility for an estate.

Significant demands on their time

Estate administration requires more than just paperwork review. Personal representatives need to appear in probate court. They have to visit the residence of the deceased individual to secure their property. The tasks required during the probate process can require numerous hours from a personal representative every week. It can be difficult to balance the need for court appearances, asset management, family needs and a career.

Personal financial liability

Technically, a personal representative typically does not have direct responsibility for the decedent’s debts. Unless they are a cosigner on someone’s accounts, they usually don’t have to worry about paying an individual’s credit card balances or student loans if the estate does not have enough capital to cover those expenses. However, personal representatives can end up accountable for taxes and debts owed by an estate if they do not properly manage the estate’s resources. Distributing assets to beneficiaries before handling debts and taxes might lead to personal financial liability for the representative of an estate.

Relationship damage

People would ideally be understanding about how a personal representative’s responsibilities force them to set aside their own wishes to comply with the instructions provided by the testator. Sadly, it is quite common for people to take out their frustrations about the terms included in an estate plan on the personal representative. Their need to adhere to the instructions provided by the testator could ultimately cause long-term damage to some of their relationships with beneficiaries of the estate.

Those thinking of stepping up to assist with estate administration if someone has died without naming a representative and those asked to serve as the personal representative of an estate should carefully consider the risks that come with the position before agreeing to fill it. Having proper support from someone familiar with the state’s probate statutes can help people determine whether they can serve as a personal representative and how to best protect themselves from the risks that result from doing so.