The administration of an estate after a family member or someone dear to you passes away can be immensely stressful. At a time when you are more focused on grieving, you may quickly find that getting the affairs of a loved one in order are much more involved than just funeral planning. You may be confronted with legal terms and requests for information that are unfamiliar to you, adding a bit of confusion to your heartache. An experienced administration attorney at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A., is here to help dissect and explain the process to ensure you can smoothly fulfill your responsibilities and distribute assets of the deceased according to the laws of the state of Florida.
What Does an Administration Attorney Do?
Each estate administration attorney at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A. is a specialist in handling the distribution of assets accumulated and the settling of debts incurred by a person during their lifetime. In short, we make certain that after a loved one passes away, their last wishes are carried out precisely to the letter of Florida law. Often, this means honoring their wishes by adhering to the instructions in a Last Will and Testament, perhaps going through probate, paying bills/taxes but most importantly, assisting the decedent’s personal representative with legal compliance.
What is a Personal Representative?
The personal representative is someone either named in a will or appointed by the court to handle the decedent’s affairs. This amounts to valuing and safeguarding assets that may need to go into probate, paying expenses, filing tax returns, distributing assets to beneficiaries, searching for and notifying creditors of the death and even objecting to claims believed to be invalid. Objections to claims can obviously result in litigation and especially at that point, it’s imperative for a personal representative to retain the services of a qualified administration attorney.
If I Have a Will, Do I Really Need an Administration Attorney?
Absolutely. The duties of a personal representative are many and even the cases that seem most straightforward can run into unforeseen difficulties. Not to mention, that the majority of estate administration cases in Florida actually require on to have an administration attorney.
Imagine if your parent or spouse recently passed away and you were appointed in his or her will as the personal representative. Should you accept this responsibility, it is now your duty to ensure your their assets are distributed properly and his or her remaining debts paid. One of the first things to do is to determine what those assets and debts are. You will need to ask yourself questions such as:
- What loans or bank accounts did my parent or spouse have?
- What real property did my parent or spouse have?
- How do I distribute assets to the correct individuals properly?
- Did my parent or spouse own a business?
- How do I sell a business?
- What is the value of the business’ assets?
That’s just the start. Trying to determine the value and amount of assets in a business can get complicated quickly, especially in cases with unique businesses such as an antique shop or boating charter. Valuing depreciable assets is one thing, the valuation of antiques quite another. Furthermore, correctly valuing assets with sentimental value to surviving family members can be a heavy burden in the aftermath of a loved one’s death.
You will also want to know what the rights are of claimants on the decedent’s assets, the rights of spouses and f0amily members/beneficiaries, as well as the rights of creditors and institutions. All of these people and groups can have substantial impacts on the administration of an estate and being partnered with the right administration attorney can be the difference between sifting through mounds of dense legalese or having a well-oiled machine representing your interests.
Sorting Through the Claims on the Decedent’s Property
Many people may have claims on the decedent’s property. There could be family members who are named as beneficiaries in a will or other family members with claims who aren’t named specifically. Often, the most difficult entities to deal with regarding claims are institutional ones. Shortly after the decedent’s passing, you will likely be required to deal with service providers, banks, insurance companies among a host of others. If you’ve ever tried to contact a bank to discuss an elderly parent’s account with them, you were probably refused information without the teller having written authorization to release that information to you. If that parent has passed on, there is no way to get them to sign authorization now. Additionally, if they had given you durable powers of attorney, that no longer applies once they have passed. You may need to obtain letters of administration or letters testamentary.
Letters of Administration or Letters of Testamentary
Letters of administration or letters testamentary authorize the personal representative to act on behalf of the decedent’s beneficiaries. These letters are essentially court orders informing service providers and banks that you have the power to perform these duties. You will need these letters to carry out basic tasks such as cancelling subscriptions, closing social media accounts and ending utility services, not to mention more complicated jobs such as obtaining financial account statements and filing tax returns.
The most important thing to remember is that the decisions and actions taken during estate administration must conform to the requirements under Florida law. If they do not, problems can arise that may even take years to untangle. An estate administration attorney who is effective and efficient is your best bet to avoid any pitfalls. Having the best advice possible for each variation is crucial during administration. Every administration attorney at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A. is able to expertly guide you through each facet of the entire process.
Hire a Knowledgeable Administration Attorney for Your Case
An experienced estate administration attorney from Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A. is uniquely qualified to handle all aspects of the estate administration process. Given our years of experience and thorough understanding of the particulars of Florida state law, we are positive that achieving the best possible result for all parties involved is only a matter of phone call to our office. Consult with one of our attorneys regarding your situation today!