When an individual passes away, much needs to done to settle their affairs, which may include liquidating and distributing assets, paying debts and filing tax returns. The person who is entrusted with this responsibility may be called an executor, a personal representative or administrator. These titles all refer to the individual acting in a fiduciary capacity.
A fiduciary is an individual who acts on behalf of another person to manage assets while maintaining good faith and trust. A fiduciary must be bound ethically to act in the best interest of another. Thereby being the highest legal duty one can have.
The titles of executor, a personal representative or administrator can be interchangeable. Here in the state of Florida, the fiduciary appointed to oversee a probate matter that is appointed by a Judge is given the title of Personal Representative pursuant to Florida Statute 733.302. Other states may use the term Executor or Administrator. A female in this capacity may be called Executrix or Administratrix.
A personal representative can be an individual that is over 18 years of age with mental and physical capacity to fulfill the responsibilities, a qualified and authorized bank or even a trust company incorporated under the laws of Florida.
Being appointed with this responsibility is a very serious matter. As stated on the Florida Bar’s website, “If the personal representative mismanages the decedent’s probate estate, the personal representative may be liable to the beneficiaries for any harm they may suffer.”
Another type of fiduciary is a trustee. A trustee oversees the distributions from a trust, periodic accountings, and maintains the beneficiaries informed.
Therefore, the personal representative or trustee should find and follow informed legal advice as he or she administers the estate or trust they have been entrusted with.