The traditional form of probate in Florida is formal administration, which requires the appointment of a personal representative. In such cases, the personal representative is the individual appointed by a probate court to administer the decedent’s estate subject to probate.
Accordingly, the personal representative has a fiduciary duty to the decedent’s estate and beneficiaries. Typically, the personal representative is designated in the decedent’s last will, as the testator may choose who will execute his/her estate upon death.
However, can a stepchild be a personal representative in Florida? Keep reading to find out.
Does Appointing a Stepchild as a Personal Representative Result in Disputes? – An Honest Overview
When talking to probate attorneys with years of experience in the field, one will often hear about probate disputes involving stepfamilies, especially feuds between stepmothers and stepchildren from a decedent’s first marriage.
Nonetheless, this scenario definitely does not represent the majority of cases, as the estate of individuals remarry with children from a previous relationship may be administered as smoothly as the estate of someone who did not.
Accordingly, not only it is possible to designate a stepchild as a personal representative, but this approach is not uncanny.
Regardless of who will be appointed as a personal representative, it is crucial to have an expert probate attorney ensure that the last will has full legal compliance with no vague terms that could lead to unpleasant misunderstandings.
Can a Stepchild be a Personal Representative in Florida? – As Provided by Law
Florida law provides a specific set of rules to govern the appointment of personal representatives within state jurisdiction.
As long as the choice is pursuant to the limitations imposed by law, “any person who is sui juris and is a resident of Florida at the time of the death of the person whose estate is to be administered is qualified to act as personal representative in Florida.” (Fla. Stat. §733.302)
When a deceased person passes away with a last will, the probate court will typically corroborate the decedent’s choice by appointing the personal representative designated in the will.
Florida Statutes §733.301 (1)(a) details the order of preference in the appointment of a personal representative, stating that “in granting letters of administration, the following order of preference shall be observed:
- The personal representative, or his or her successor, nominated by the will or pursuant to a power conferred in the will
- The person selected by a majority in interest of the persons entitled to the estate
- A devisee (beneficiary) under the will. If more than one devisee applies, the court may select the one best qualified.”
Can a Stepchild be a Personal Representative in Florida? – Rules Applied to Non-Residents
Nonetheless, if a decedent has used his/her last will to designate a personal representative that is not a Florida resident, the legal requirements are stricter. Florida Statutes §733.304 set out that “a person who is not domiciled in the state cannot qualify as personal representative unless the person is:
- A legally adopted child or adoptive parent of the decedent
- Related by lineal consanguinity to the decedent
- A spouse or a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece of the decedent, or someone related by lineal consanguinity to any such person; or
- The spouse of a person otherwise qualified under this section”
Accordingly, a stepson or stepdaughter may be appointed as a Florida personal representative whether he/she is an in-state resident or not.