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Does It Matter if My Personal Representative Lives in Florida?


One of the most important estate planning decisions that you will make is naming a personal representative (executor) in your last will and testament. Many people choose to name a spouse, child, or family member to serve as personal representative. But what if the person you name does not actually live in Florida? Does that make a difference? And what challenges might an out-of-state executor face in actually managing your estate?

First, let’s explain the rules governing personal representatives in Florida. When a Florida resident dies and leaves a will, the probate court will normally appoint the person nominated as personal representative in the will to serve in that role. If there is no will, then Florida law establishes an order of priority for naming a personal representative.

Any Florida resident can be named as a personal representative of a Florida estate, provided they are an adult (someone over the age of 18), they have not been convicted of a felony, and they are not “mentally or physically unable to perform the duties” that the role requires.

But again, what about non-residents? Here, the law imposes some additional restrictions. An out-of-state resident can only serve as personal representative if they fall into one of the following four categories:

  1. They are a legally adopted child or adoptive parent of the deceased.
  2. They are a direct descendant–e.g., child or grandchild–of the deceased.
  3. They are a spouse, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece of the descendant, or a direct descendant of one of these persons (i.e., a cousin).
  4. They are the spouse of any of the people described above.

So essentially, an out-of-state personal representative must be someone related to you by blood or marriage. A good friend who lives in North Carolina cannot serve as a personal representative of your Florida estate. But a cousin who lives in New York could.

Always Get Advice from a Florida Probate and Estate Administration Lawyer

That explains the law. But what about the practical implications of having an out-of-state personal representative? Will the executor have to make frequent personal trips to Florida to administer your estate?

In most cases, it is not necessary for the personal representative to maintain much of a physical presence in Florida. For one thing, the executor should always work with a qualified local Florida probate attorney, who can handle most of the actual filings. If the estate is very small and has no creditors, then it is possible to settle the estate by filing a simple affidavit.

But even in a more formal probate, most of the personal representative’s tasks do not require their physical presence in Florida. The main jobs of the executor include marshaling and liquidating the estate’s assets, preparing any necessary tax forms, contacting the beneficiaries named in the will, and filing a final report with the court. This process can last several months, even as long as a year.

Again, the critical thing to remember is that regardless of whether your personal representative lives in or outside of Florida, their first task should be to retain an experienced Fort Myers estate and probate administration attorney to guide them through the process. If you have additional questions, contact the Kuhn Law Firm, P.A., at 239-333-4529 today to schedule a free confidential consultation.

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