In the state of Florida, a trust serves as a document that spells out exactly how assets should be distributed upon the death or incapacity of the settlor, the person who sets up the trust. A trustee, or the person who manages the trust, is required by law to perform a variety of duties in order to properly distribute those assets. This process, known as trust administration, must be followed exactly as the trust’s founding document dictates and can quickly get tied up in legal knots. With the expertise of the trust administration attorneys at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A. on your side, you can rest easy knowing that any potential knots will be untangled swiftly and to the satisfaction of everyone involved.
What is Involved in Trust Administration?
If a family member or other individual close to you has recently passed away or become incapacitated and named you the new trustee, there are a plethora of duties and tasks that you must carry out. First, you will need to order death certificates. These certificates need to be certified as you will need to use them to access assets from insurance policies, banks and other institutions.
Next, you will need to file a notice of trust with the court. In Florida, the law stipulates that this must be done in the county of residence of the deceased. The filing must also include certain information such as the date of death, the name of the deceased, the title of the trust and when it was created, as well as the successor trustee’s address.
Finally, and perhaps most important for trust administration, you must deposit the Will. Most often, an estate plan built around a trust includes a Will spelling out how the decedent wanted the assets distributed. This absolutely must be given to the probate court within ten days of the decedent’s death.
Why Should I Use a Trust Administration Attorney?
Failure to perform these duties as required by Florida law can result in some tricky situations and even lead to litigation in court. At Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A., our trust administration attorneys are experts in ensuring your duties as a trustee are met to the letter of the law.
Aside from the above-mentioned duties, trust administration includes further obligations that must be met. Imagine that you are now the trustee in charge of carrying out your parent’s final wishes regarding their estate. You will need to ask yourself some questions about the trust, familiarize yourself with all of the trust’s assets, inform beneficiaries and even keep records of any income or expenses.
For example, having a solid understanding of the trust agreement is crucial. What do you actually need to do with the assets held in the trust? Who should these assets be distributed to? Should they be distributed to individuals or charities?
A trust itself can be a remarkably complicated arrangement. Depending on the size of the estate, there may be assets valued at only a few thousand dollars all the way up to the millions. It’s your job as the trustee to have a detailed accounting of everything owned by the trust. Usually, this is spelled out in the trust document, but in some cases you may need to get access to the decedent’s financial records to find out everything. You may even find assets that were solely owned by the decedent, which means they will have to go through probate.
In addition, perhaps the trust currently has income and expenses. As the trustee, you will need to act as the trust’s accountant and maintain detailed and accurate records of how everything is being managed. Not only that, but you will be obligated to keep beneficiaries in the loop of any activity taking place regarding the trust. You will need to inform them about how trust administration is proceeding and answer any questions they may have about assets.
Can I be Held Liable for Anything During Trust Administration?
Yes, but only if assets held within the trust are mismanaged. You will need to be careful to keep any assets you own separate from the assets of the trust, avoid conflicts of interest, be sure not to lose or damage any assets and only distribute assets exactly as the trust dictates.
Does a Trust Mean I Can Avoid Probate?
A revocable or living trust can usually avoid probate but not always. Often, this arrangement transfers the assets into the trustee’s ownership during the decedent’s lifetime and grants the trustee power over the distribution of those assets immediately after the decedent passes away. However, making sure the trust has been funded correctly is absolutely necessary to avoid probate. For instance, a trust may not have been fully funded during the decedent’s lifetime which would necessitate probate for non-trust assets in addition to trust administration for the assets within the trust. Avoiding probate can help save the estate money and time, but this only works with proper planning and if the law is followed accordingly.
As you can see, being a trustee can be enormously involved and you will have substantial responsibilities. Having the best advice possible will ensure that you are making decisions that protect your family and interests. The trust administration attorneys at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A., are able to smooth out the process and help you avoid any pitfalls that may arise. We will ensure that creditors and taxes are paid timely and efficiently as well as each beneficiary receiving the full amount due to them within the confines of Florida law.
Hire a Skilled Trust Administration Attorney Today!
With all of these new responsibilities, you may feel overwhelmed, but rest assured the qualified attorneys at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A., are here to help. With a thorough understanding of the peculiarities of Florida law, our trust administration attorneys will discuss and distill all aspects of your situation to you, making sure that you remain true to your duties as a trustee and the law of the state of Florida.