Part of administering an estate upon a person’s passing involves the distribution of their assets to their heirs, whether that is by will, by trust, or by court order. When the late person has a valid will that has been submitted to the court and accepted as that person’s Last Will and Testament, the personal representative or executor of the estate that is listed in the will is appointed to safekeep the decedent’s assets and distribute their possessions in accordance with the wishes stipulated in the will. If the person has passed without a will, the court will name the personal representative or executor in accordance to the order of preference stipulated in Section 733.301 of the Florida Probate Code. Nevertheless, Florida courts, specifically, will not allow the personal representative to distribute assets until he or she has been issued Letters of Administration by the court.
How do I get Letters of Administration in Florida?
As a personal representative or executor of one’s estate, you must first attend the local probate court to enter the will into probate, file and then obtain a letter of administration. With you, bring a copy of the will and death certificate of the deceased. For testate estates, the court will look to see if you have been nominated by the will or pursuant to a power conferred in the will as qualification for obtaining the letters of administration. In intestate estates, when there is no will at all, the court will first look to the surviving spouse of the decedent or secondly, the person selected by the majority of the heirs as an appointed personal representative. “Letters” as defined in Florida’s Probate Code, gives “authority to act on behalf of the estate of the decedent and refers to what has been known as letters testamentary and letters of administration.” It is important to note, however, that a personal representative is not allowed to represent him or herself during this time, as Florida requires a personal representative to be represented by an attorney at all times throughout the administration process.
The letters of administration process is to essentially make a showing that you are the person appointed in the will and are of sound mind and able to conduct your fiduciary duties with regard to the estate. Once the court has verified that you are qualified to serve as the personal representative of the estate, the letters of administration will then be issued. This is rather important as many financial institutions, for example, will not allow access to funds of the deceased without the letters of administration issued by the court.
What is the Difference Between a Curator and a Personal Representative of an Estate in Florida?
A “Curator” in accordance with Florida’s Probate Code refers to a person who is appointed by the court in order to take control of the decedent’s estate until the letters of administration are issued by the court. Often times, a curator comes in when there is an active dispute over the eligibility of someone who is currently an appointed personal representative. The letters of administration will then be obtained by the newly appointed personal representative of the estate, as duly appointed by the will or pursuant to a power conferred in the will. Curators are temporary administrators until the personal representative can come in and permanently take charge. Recent Florida case law has held that neither a curator nor a personal representative can serve an estate concurrently. With that being said, it is legally improper for both to simultaneously be acting on behalf of the same estate.
During the time a curator is appointed, he or she may act as a temporary personal representative and carry out the estate as if a permanent personal representative would. Nevertheless, until the letters of administration have been issued, the proposed personal representative may not administer any part of the estate and shall have no power to distribute those assets until he or she is rightfully appointed to do so by the court.
If you need assistance with obtaining letters of administration in Florida, do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced business attorneys at EPGD Business Law, EPGD Business Law is located in beautiful Coral Gables, West Palm Beach and historic Washington D.C. Call us at (786) 837-6787, or contact us through the website to schedule a consultation.