Grieving the loss of a loved one is never easy. At Morris Law Group, we want our clients to have time to heal without worrying about the legal complexities of probate or trust administration.
When a person passes away in Florida, all the assets they owned at the time of their death are subject to probate or trust administration. Our dedicated team helps families, individual personal representatives, trustees, and professional fiduciaries navigate the legal hurdles related to the administration of probate estates and trusts.
Probate is the legal process of settling a person’s affairs after their death. The personal representative named in a person’s will is responsible for probate. If the person passed away with no will or did not name an executor, the probate court will appoint an administrator to handle the task. Typically, this is the closest living family member or the person who stands to inherit the bulk of the estate. The personal representative is also referred to as an executor or administrator.
Every case is a little different, but probate typically involves:
- Proving the validity of the will
- Creating an inventory of the deceased person’s property and gathering any necessary appraisals
- Paying outstanding debts and taxes
- Distributing remaining assets to heirs according to the terms of the will or state intestacy laws if there is no valid will
We serve as the liaison between the probate court and the personal representative of the estate, and advise the personal representative on what actions should be taken to comply with court orders to distribute and administer the estate efficiently. When problems or complications occur, such as dealing with assets in another state or being unable to locate a beneficiary, we work to ensure a timely resolution.
Any legal fees associated with the probate process, as well as the fees for the personal representative’s services, are paid from the estate before the remaining assets are distributed to beneficiaries.
Trust administration involves the management of trust property according to the trust document’s terms and for the benefit of the beneficiaries after the death of the person who created the trust. Assets held in a trust do not have to go through the probate process, but some of the steps involved in trust administration are similar to what is accomplished during probate.
A successor trustee assumes control and management of a Revocable Living Trust when the grantor who created the trust has either died or become incapacitated to the point where they can no longer manage their own affairs. The difficulty of the process is dependent on the size of the trust, but the administration of a trust typically involves:
- Providing mandatory notice to all beneficiaries and heirs
- Transferring property titles from the deceased settlor to the new trustee
- Transferring bank and investment accounts into the trustee’s name as the successor trustee
- Acquiring the trust’s federal tax identification number to make sure any income earned is correctly reported to the IRS
- Paying debts and satisfying liabilities of the deceased settlor
- Filing a federal estate tax return, if required by law
- Distributing trust assets according to the terms of the trust
- Keeping a detailed accounting of all trust activity, including deposits and distributions
A successor trustee is entitled to be paid from the trust for the services they provide. Fees are normally addressed in the trust documents themselves, with state law providing guidance as to what a “reasonable” fee may involve. As with probate, legal fees associated with trust administration are paid from the estate.
We represent trustees of Revocable Trusts, as well as Life Insurance Trusts, Retirement Trusts, Testamentary Trusts, Gift Trusts, Qualified Personal Residence Trusts, Charitable Trusts, and other Irrevocable Trusts. If needed, we can also assist the trustee with the continued administration of the trust and any sub-trusts established.
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At Morris Law Group, we understand the difficulty of losing a family member or friend. We're committed to treating clients with empathy, understanding, skill, and professionalism. Morris Law Group is here for your spouse and family members when they need us most.
We have four convenient offices in South Florida, including our headquarters in Boca Raton, as well as locations in Aventura, West Palm Beach, and Weston. Schedule your consultation now.