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Can You Name Your Stepson or Stepdaughter as Personal Representative of Your Estate?


Step-families often get a bad rap on estate planning law blogs, as many probate disputes arise between stepmothers and their stepchildren.  The lurid stories of those probate disputes, some of which are genuine cases of undue influence, but others of which are just a case of old grudges playing out in court, obscure the fact that most estates of people who remarry after having children settle without problems.  In fact, some people even designate their stepchildren as personal representatives or their estates.  If you plan to appoint your stepson or stepdaughter as personal representative of your estate, you should have a Central Florida estate planning lawyer ensure that your will complies with all the requirements of Florida law.

Appointing a Family Member as Personal Representative of Your Estate

According to Florida Statute 733.304, you are free to choose any resident of Florida to act as the personal representative of your estate.  The personal representative can be anyone you trust, such as a family member, a friend, or even your estate planning lawyer.  If the person you plan to appoint as the personal representative of your estate does not live in Florida, the rules are a little bit stricter.  Florida Statute 733.304 lists the family members you can appoint, but it includes almost every family member closely related enough that someone would choose them as personal representative even if they live out of state.  Not only that, but the law also allows you to choose the spouse or “direct lineal descendant” (son, daughter, grandchild, etc.) of a close relative.  Stepsons and stepdaughters are definitely included, and many probate cases in Florida have the decedent’s stepson or stepdaughter who does not live in Florida acting as personal representative.

A Probate Dispute Over a Stepson’s Qualification to Act as Personal Representative

Katherine Davis and her husband John lived in Florida, and John’s son Douglas lived in New York.  In her will, Katherine named Douglas as the personal representative of her estate, and when she died in July 2007, he applied to open her estate for probate in Florida.  As the law requires, Douglas served Katherine’s mother Solveig Hill with notice that the estate had been opened.  Mrs. Hill filed several motions challenging the validity of the will, but the court rejected these motions.  In August 2008, more than a year after the estate opened, Mrs. Hill filed a motion claiming that Douglas was not qualified to serve as personal representative.  She argued that, because John had predeceased Katherine, Douglas did not count as a direct descendant of the decedent’s spouse.  The court rejected this argument and also asserted that, if Mrs. Hill objected to Douglas’s qualifications, she should have filed a motion about this within three months of receiving notice of the estate being opened.

Contact an Attorney for Help Today

An experienced Clearwater estate planning lawyer can help you choose the best person to be the personal representative of your estate.  Contact William Rambaum for help with your case.




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