If you have a Will, someone has to administer it – gather all of your assets and debts, work with lawyers and the courts, take care of your property until it can be sold or distributed, and eventually distribute it to the people you named in your Will. That person is your Personal Representative (called an Executor in some states).
Who should you name to take on this enormous burden and responsibility? Well, in Florida, the absolute minimum requirements are that the person be at least 18 years old, a Florida resident as of your date of death or a family member, and not be a convicted felon. Otherwise, they cannot be appointed.
So, who can you name? You can name a family member who lives anywhere in the U.S. (it’s possible, in theory, to have a foreign PR, but it’s extremely costly and awkward and many probate lawyers won’t handle such a probate), a friend who lives in Florida, a business associate who lives in Florida, a Florida attorney or CPA, a professional fiduciary located in Florida, or a corporate trustee (such as a Florida trust company or bank).
What characteristics should this person or entity have? They will have a legal fiduciary duty to handle your estate (your “stuff”) according to your wishes, so they should be trustworthy, honest, dependable, organized, fair, have common sense, and, if possible, live close by so they can easily control and manage your property.
Being appointed as a Personal Representative is a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating job. So the person you name should have plenty of free time as well as the health and stamina to put in lots of hours, read and understand legal documents, hire professionals, deal with family questions and conflicts, and potentially travel frequently if they don’t live close to your property.
Your Personal Representative is entitled to (taxable) compensation under Florida law – and they should take that compensation! It’s not fair for one child to bear the entire burden for several months or longer, and then end up with the same amount as her siblings who just sat back and waited for their inheritance.
In your Will, you should always name backups after your first choice – bad things happen to good people all the time. If there is no one named in your Will who is willing and able to serve when you die, someone you wouldn’t want or trust could be named by a judge who wouldn’t know any better.
A good option for people who don’t have any family members or friends they want to name – or would prefer to name someone who is completely independent – is to name a corporate trustee. They know all the rules and the process, and have no emotional skin in the game. They can be completely impartial and fair. But they cost money, so there has to be enough money in your estate to make it worthwhile for them to serve – generally a minimum of $500,000. You should talk with any trust company you’re considering now – while you’re alive. If you have less than $500,000, you’ll likely need to rely on family and friends to serve.