Trust administration is necessary during the incapacity and/or after the death of the creator (grantor) of a revocable living trust. The designated trustee or successor trustee must administer (manage) the trust assets according to the trust document and Florida law.
Serving as a trustee comes with many responsibilities, including: locating and gathering all the decedent’s assets; locating potential creditors and resolving the decedent’s debts, making and managing investments, operating a small-business, hiring professional advisors, keeping meticulous records, filing tax returns, creating new trusts, distributing income and principal to beneficiaries and heirs, giving proper legal written notice to all parties involved; and much more.
Because a trust was most likely designed to keep the grantor’s estate out of probate court, the grantor’s estate is administered without court supervision. If a dispute should arise among the family concerning the trustee’s management of the trust, or between beneficiaries regarding their share of assets and property, it becomes more difficult to resolve the issues without the court’s assistance.
Additionally, the decedent’s creditors have a longer period of time to file claims against the estate when the estate does not pass through probate. A trustee’s failure to properly address and resolve creditor claims can result in liability against the trustee.
Upholding the responsibility of a trustee may be a burden on the life, and drain on the personal funds, of the person tasked with this role. Depending on the terms in a trust document, and life circumstances, it may be best for the designated trustee or successor trustee to decline the appointment.
Despite the potential pitfalls of serving as a trustee, more often than not a trustee’s responsibilities are easily manageable for any person. Nevertheless, if you have been appointed a trustee or successor trustee of another person’s trust, it is a good idea to first consult with an estate planning attorney who can help decipher the terms of the trust and assist with the responsibilities required of the trustee.
Similar to trust administration, estate administration involves the management of a decedent’s estate when it passes through probate – whether there was a Will or no Will (intestate).
An appointed personal representative, under court supervision, is responsible for managing a decedent’s estate through Florida’s probate courts. The type of administration needed will be determined by the size of estate, the provisions of the decedent’s Will, and/or Florida law.
Similar to a trustee’s responsibilities in a trust administration, a personal representative has certain responsibilities when managing a decedent’s probate estate. Failure to meet these obligations could result in legal action or even monetary penalties levied against the personal representative.
Because Florida’s probate process is not easily navigated alone, it is wise for an appointed personal representative to hire a probate lawyer to assist with the administration of another’s probate estate.
If you want to learn more about the trust or estate administration services offered by my law office, please contact me today!