If you die with a written will in Florida, you die testate, and your will dictates who inherits your property. If you die without a will, your state’s intestacy laws govern the disposition of your probate property. The Florida Statutes provide an order of priority establishing who has a right to receive your property when a decedent dies without a written will.
A personal representative or named executor will file your will in the circuit court of the county where you lived when you died. The court assigns a circuit court judge who will supervise the probate process. A circuit court judge will also make a preliminary determination as to the validity of your will and whether your will is authentic. If the circuit court judge determines that your will is valid and authentic, he will then approve your designated or selected executor or personal representative. A judge must find that your executor or personal representative is legally competent and able to comply with your testamentary dispositions.
If the circuit court judge approves your designation, he will issue “letters of administration.” The chosen personal representative must be at least 18 years old and be a close relative or a Florida resident. Other than individual appointments, decedents may also appoint banks and trust companies to serve as their personal representatives. Close relatives are not required to live in Florida to serve as personal representatives. If you are not a Florida resident, and you are not the decedent’s close relative, you cannot serve as his personal representative. If your heirs cannot agree on a designated personal representative, the circuit court will conduct a hearing to choose a representative and appoint one after the hearing.