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Your Out-of-State Relative or Your Local Lawyer: Who Is a Better Candidate for Personal Representative of Your Estate?


An important part of your estate plan is designating someone as the personal representative of your estate, also known as the executor of your will.  For many married people, their spouse is the obvious choice, but if you are widowed or divorced, or if you have never been married, the choice is not so simple.  Since Florida is such a popular destination for retirees, many seniors in Florida have no other family members in the Sunshine State, except for their spouses.  Should you appoint your sibling or child as the personal representative of your state, even if they don’t live in Florida, or is it better to have your Florida estate planning lawyer represent your estate instead?

Which Family Members Are Eligible to Serve as Personal Representative of Your Estate?

According to Florida Statute 733.304, you can choose any adult resident of Florida to be the personal representative of your estate, whether that person is an immediate family member, an extended family member, a friend, your lawyer, or any other person that you trust.  The law does, however, make some exceptions in which you can appoint an out-of-state resident as the personal representative of your estate.  If the personal representative is not a Florida resident, he or she must be a close family member, which the law defines as the following:

  • Your son or daughter
  • Your parent
  • Your sibling
  • Your spouse
  • Your aunt or uncle
  • The spouse or direct descendant of any of the relatives listed above

Non-Floridians Who Can Be the Personal Representative of Your Estate

The “spouse or direct descendant” clause gives you considerable flexibility about out-of-state relatives who can be the personal representative of your estate.  By virtue of being the direct descendant of your brother, your great-niece can be the personal representative.  Since he is the direct descendant of your spouse, your stepson can also be the personal representative.  So can your brother-in-law, your uncle’s wife, and your first cousin once removed (the grandchild of your aunt or uncle).  Relatives more distantly related to you than the ones listed above cannot serve as personal representatives unless they live in Florida.

When Appointing Your Lawyer as Personal Representative Is the Best Choice

What do you do if you have no surviving relatives closely related enough to serve as personal representative of your estate?  What about if the people you trust the most are not blood relatives but friends?  If you have a friend who lives in Florida and is willing to serve as the personal representative of your estate, then you should designate him or her as a personal representative in your will.  If not, then your estate planning lawyer is probably the best person to serve as personal representative of your estate.

Your Estate Planning Lawyer Can Help You Choose the Best Personal Representative for Your Estate

Choosing a personal representative when you write your will is not a decision to be taken lightly.  Contact David Toback to set up a consultation with an experienced Tampa estate planning lawyer.


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