No One HAS To Serve as Personal Representative

Sometimes the best advice is “Don’t Do It.”

Sometimes the best advice we can give to prospective executors (in Florida called Personal Representatives) is, “Don’t do it.” Just because a Last Will names you as executor, that does not bind you. In some estates, the Will (usually not drafted by a lawyer) is so hard to understand or is based upon certain assumptions that are not now true (such as assets in the estate) that the “job” of the personal representative is just too difficult.

Sometimes the named executor is too old or ill to handle the job.

But the worst scenario may be when the estate owes back taxes to the IRS and all the accounts were set up in joint names or designation of beneficiary, and now there is not enough money in the probate estate to pay the IRS. Guess who’s responsible for paying taxes? Yep, the executor, who may be looking at litigation to try to recover funds of the decedent that passed outside of probate.

Even if you promised your friend or family member that you would handle the estate, no doubt that promise was not made with the disclosure of back taxes owed and insufficient funds to pay. Once a court names you as personal representative, you won’t be able to withdraw without court permission, but you have the opportunity before you are appointed to “just say no.”