How many personal representatives do you need to manage your estate following death. You can select any number of persons to serve as personal representative, but with that selection comes potential problems and litigation. You are limited (under Florida law) to who can serve as your personal representative but not as to quantity.
Florida law states that your personal representative must either be a family member or the spouse of one of the family members. It also allows any Florida resident to serve as personal representative and the individual selected must be over 18 years of age and have capacity.
The problems of selecting a personal representative normally comes into play when there are two or more nominees selected to serve at the same time. Generally speaking, the selection of multiple personal representatives is the result of Mom (or Dad) not wanting to hurt the feelings of someone and thus such persons are selected to serve together. This has the potential of causing a disaster when the personal representatives have differing agendas. Consider the following facts:
Mom is dying and elects to have a Will drawn up. Her immediate family consists of three children, with one child living nearby and the other two living out of State. Because mom is concerned about hurting the feelings of the children by not selecting them as a personal representative, she insists that the Will give management of her estate to her three children. At mom’s death, issues quickly escalate over who has control over her real estate and bank accounts. The local child changes the locks on the real estate (in an effort to secure the property from possible vandalism). In addition, Mom’s bank accounts (titled in Mom and the local child’s name) are closed (supposedly in an effort to pay Mom’s immediate expenses such as electric, water and insurance). Lastly, the local child removes Mom’s car to secure it and keeps the keys.
So far everything seems to be moving in the right direction until one of the other children comes into town and wants to check on the house and other assets of the property. The problems quickly escalate when it is learned by the other two children that accounts were closed and there is no access to the residence.
The other two children want to enter the residence but the local child refuses and no information concerning the date of death values of the bank accounts are forthcoming. Suddenly, lines of animosity are drawn and the specter of litigation is beginning with each party claiming the other has stolen funds and items from the estate. What is worse is that there is no communication nor consent between the siblings. The failure to communicate and gain consent among the siblings before taking action almost always assures a disaster. You should not depend on the attorney selected to manage the beneficiaries to play nicely. The question that gets asked at this point is, did this really have to happen?
The immediate answer is no. Had Mom selected only one of the children to serve then much of the animosity would not occur. What usually happens next is finger pointing and accusations which leads to litigation and expenses that simply did not have to happen. Thus, the recommendation is to have only one person serve as personal representative. Make certain that the individual you select is capable of communicating, is honest and can manage multiple things at once along with good monetary skills.
If you are unsure who would be in the best interest of your estate, have a conversation with the attorney of your choice to discuss the aspects selecting the best personal representative for your estate and the reason why you believe them to be a good choice. Being the oldest and local sibling is not always in the best interest of the family dynamics.
This article is intended for informational use only and is not for purposes of providing legal advice or association of a lawyer – client relationship.