As the personal representative of the estate of someone who died while living in the Tampa area, you will have numerous legal obligations in the upcoming months. There are many responsibilities that you need to fulfill, so it is crucial that you familiarize yourself with the Florida probate rules early in the process so that you can meet all of those obligations.
If you don’t take the right steps, you could face challenges in probate court over your role in the estate. Sometimes, you could even have personal liability if you fail to take the right actions.
Securing and valuing property like real estate
One of the first steps you need to take as the representative of the estate is to secure the assets that belong to the estate. Often, real property will be the most valuable asset, although there could also be a business in the estate that will require a professional valuation. You need to ensure that no one will access or damage valuable assets and determine what they are worth so that you can present the appropriate information to the probate courts.
Prepare and file paperwork with the probate courts
Once you have secured the property that belongs to the estate and located the estate planning documents, you can then begin the probate process. You will have to file paperwork with the courts so that all of the necessary information can guide the probate process.
You need to notify creditors
Representatives of Florida estates can end up personally responsible for debts if they don’t pay them during estate administration. It is your responsibility to notify individual creditors and to publish public notices for creditors that you do not know about yet.
Once they make claims through the appropriate process with the probate courts, you will need to use estate assets to pay those creditors in full if possible. Income taxes and Medicaid benefit repayment are often obligations that fall to the estate as well.
Distributing assets to beneficiaries
Once you have located and secured the property of the estate, notified the relevant parties, filed the appropriate paperwork and paid off all outstanding debts and taxes, you will then be able to start distributing assets from the estate to others. This process can lead to conflicts, especially if beneficiaries are unhappy with their share of the estate or the delays created by the probate process.
It can be very difficult for one person to manage all of these simultaneous responsibilities. Many personal representatives will benefit from professional legal support during probate proceedings. Learning more about the Florida estate administration process can help you prepare to fulfill your responsibilities.