What Is the Difference Between an Executor and a Personal Representative?

What Is the Difference Between an Executor and a Personal Representative?
aets, trust, probate, dependents, trustee, executor, munns, litigation, beneficiaries, estate

There is not a major difference between an executor and a personal representative, as both are often used interchangeably. A judge appoints an executor to oversee a person’s estate after they die. That includes administering their possessions and property. Ideally, the deceased party will have named an executor in their will, so the court does not have to appoint one and cause any unneeded complications. 

What Personal Representatives and Executors Do for their Clients

You should understand these individuals’ basic responsibilities and what those titles entail after a person’s death. The responsibilities of an executor may change between states, but their general responsibilities typically include:

  • Settling business affairs
  • Filing taxes
  • Documenting assets and gathering them in a safe place 
  • Distributing assets
  • Paying debts
  • And more

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Establishing a Trust and Appointing a Trustee

Trusts are generally created when you have a lot of assets that need to be managed and distributed after your passing. Rather than giving out millions of dollars at once, a trustee is appointed to watch over your assets and distribute them according to your wishes. Many times, a board of trustees will be established for added security and peace of mind. Additionally, trusts can offer legal protection for your assets. They can also work as a loophole for certain types of estate or inheritance taxes in some cases. 

What You Should Know About Trusts

While you are alive, you can manage your own trust and take on the role of trustee. After your passing, a trustee will be brought in as your successor (ideally, it will be someone you decided upon before your death). Trustees handle the responsibilities of the trust on a daily basis and see to it that your assets are being distributed according to your liking. 

There are two main types of trusts:

Revocable Trusts

These trusts are flexible. One of the common purposes of a revocable trust is caring for individuals who cannot care for themselves (the elderly, sick, or disabled). The trust can finance important events that come up in the life of the trustee and beneficiaries. If desired, a revocable trust can be dissolved whenever the trustee wants. 

Irrevocable Trusts

These trusts are not meant to be dissolved. The individual who makes an irrevocable trust cannot take their assets back after it is created. Ultimately, the main purpose of an irrevocable trust is to move assets out of the creator’s name and transfer them to their beneficiaries so those beneficiaries can use the assets as they see fit.

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Common Reasons for Probate Litigation

One of the driving forces behind creating a will is avoiding probate litigation. When probate litigation gets underway, family members and dependents will state their case for why they need more of your assets than they were awarded. In the process, relationships can be ruined, and your legacy may be called into question. 

As described by the Florida Bar, there are a few main reasons why people engage in probate litigation, including: 

  • Dividing assets between the beneficiaries, dependents, and individuals who were not explicitly named in the will 
  • Appraising the financial value of properties  
  • Documenting the amount of assets that were left behind, including finances, houses, cars, and other forms of property 
  • Calling the language of the will into question, thereby questioning its intended purpose
  • Seeking to recover debts that have not been paid 
  • And more

Distributing Finances to Family Members During Probate Litigation

During the process of probate litigation, Florida Statutes Chapter 732 states that dependents may be granted access to your finances. However, the dependents will need to make a compelling argument for why they deserve financial support at that present date. 

Access may be granted so the dependents will have enough financial support to get through their daily lives. If the final ruling excludes the dependents from any form of compensation, they will no longer be granted access to your finances. 

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Estate Planning Lawyers Serving Victims in Orlando

Here at Bogin, Munns & Munns, we have been practicing probate law for over four decades. We understand that estate planning may seem confusing or overwhelming to the average person. However, you must take the time to plan for your future, and the future of your family. 

If you still find yourself wondering what the difference between an executor and a personal representative is – or if you have any other questions about estate planning – our team will be happy to assist you. To get started, contact a Bogin, Munns & Munns team member at (407) 578-1334

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