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David Di Pietro
Managing Partner, Probate Attorney

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It’s never enjoyable to consider one’s own mortality, but it’s crucial to prepare for the unexpected. If you pass away without a will, the state is responsible for determining the distribution of your assets, which can be a lengthy and complex process. As such, having a skilled probate attorney to guide you is crucial.

Is There an Executor When a Will Is Absent?

In Florida, if an individual dies without a will, their estate undergoes “intestate succession,” wherein the state dictates how their assets will be divided. Usually, the deceased’s spouse is appointed as the personal representative, followed by their children. If no immediate family members survive, the court may designate a close friend or relative, or even a professional executor like an attorney or CPA.

Executor Duties

The executor’s primary responsibilities involve managing the estate, which includes:

  • Informing the deceased’s creditors of the death
  • Filing necessary tax returns
  • Cataloging the deceased’s assets and liabilities
  • Settling the deceased’s debts
  • Distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries specified in the will.

If you are named as an executor, it’s crucial to fully comprehend your obligations. If you’re uncertain of the steps to take, seeking assistance from a knowledgeable probate attorney is highly advised.

Limitations on Executor Eligibility

While a will or state statute may nominate an executor, or they may have priority for appointment, the court has the final say on who serves in the role. Some individuals are ineligible to serve as executors, administrators, or personal representatives due to various restrictions, including:

  • Age: Personal representatives must be at least 18 years old.
  • Criminal background: Florida law prohibits those convicted of serious crimes from serving.
  • Residency: Non-resident executors are disallowed unless related to the deceased through lineal consanguinity.

In addition to these disqualifying factors, probate court judges often have significant discretion in appointing executors or administrators.

Applying to Be an Estate Executor Without a Will

To serve as an administrator for an intestate estate (one without a will), you must file a petition with the probate court in the county where the deceased lived. In Florida, the probate process begins with submitting a petition and any necessary documents. The court will then determine whether to appoint you as the administrator.

Benefits of Working with a Probate Attorney

Recognizing the duties and obligations associated with being an executor or administrator is essential when appointed to such a role. A probate attorney can guide you throughout the process, from submitting the required documentation to allocating the estate’s assets. Furthermore, a legal professional can also provide support in addressing contentious matters, including challenges to the will or conflicts among beneficiaries.

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