When a loved one passes away while residing in Florida, the people close to them will wonder what happens to their property and responsibilities. The Florida probate courts will likely oversee the process of distributing their resources to others and settling their financial obligations.
Many times, those serving as the trustee or personal representative of an estate or expecting to inherit from one find the process understandably confusing. Thankfully, there are some general rules of thumb that can help family members know what to expect during the estate or trust administration process in the Sunshine States.
Communication with the courts
Even in scenarios where someone’s estate plan diminished their estate to the point where the necessary oversight is minimal, the probate courts need to be aware of the situation. The personal representative or trustee will likely need to file certain documents with the Florida probate courts to move forward with the administration process.
Compliance with written instructions
When there is a trust or a will outlining someone’s wishes, the person administering the trust or estate will generally need to follow those instructions. Only in scenarios where the courts set aside testamentary documents due to issues with the paperwork will it be appropriate for the administrator of an estate or a trustee to deviate from someone’s written instructions.
They will need to distribute assets as outlined in the estate planning paperwork. Those administering an estate, not a trust, will usually need to give creditors notice of the administration process and an opportunity to make a claim in probate court for repayment. Only after an estate settles someone’s financial obligations can beneficiaries receive estate assets without putting the administrator at risk of legal action.
The need to maintain careful records
From thoroughly reviewing the will or trust documents to maintaining records of every use of trust or estate assets, the paperwork associated with estate or trust administration will be crucial. A trustee or personal representative will typically need to keep careful records documenting exactly what they do with trust resources and why.
People need to carefully manage resources, learn about state law and abide by the instructions provided by the testator. They will need to maintain records of their efforts so that they can respond appropriately if family members or beneficiaries complain about their decisions in their role as trustee or representative.
The entire process can often take more than a year from beginning to end, and the exact duration of the administration of an estate or trust will depend on the complexity of the resources in play and the level of conflict surrounding the estate. Ultimately, seeking legal guidance can help loved ones to better knowing what to expect before heading to probate court. Sorting out the unique ins and outs of one’s circumstances can help people avoid mistakes and unnecessary delays in the process.