What is estate administration?
Estate administration is a court process designed to manage a deceased's assets for distribution to a deceased's beneficiaries or heirs. The administration of an estate has many moving parts and thus it is important to have the advisement of an experienced attorney to ensure compliance with the law.
Florida's probate code sets forth the rules and procedure for estate administrations. While there are many rules that must be complied with to achieve the ultimate goal of distribution, the process generally involves i) identifying and accounting for the assets of the deceased, ii) providing proper notification to any interested parties, including beneficiaries and potential creditors, iii) settling up debts, expenses and taxes, and iv) determining how the assets are to be distributed.
What is probate?
Estate administration is commonly referred to as probate. If someone dies a resident of Florida, administration or the probate of their estate takes place in the county of their residence. There are three types of estate administrations in Florida: summary, ancillary, and formal. Follow the links for the types of Florida probate administration and to the Florida Bar's pamphlet on Florida probate.
Who manages the estate?
A person known as an executor or, as we call it in Florida, a personal representative is appointed by the judge to collect, manage, protect, and ultimately distribute the estate assets. The person who serves as a personal representative is considered a fiduciary of the estate and is required to observe the standards of care applicable to trustees.
It is necessary to have an attorney for probate?
Florida law requires a personal representative to be represented by an attorney, unless you are a licensed Florida attorney or the only person with an interest in the estate. Although beneficiaries or other interested parties, such as creditors, are not required to have an attorney represent them, retaining legal counsel may be necessary to ensure your rights are properly protected throughout the process.
Is the estate responsible for payment of attorney fees?
Generally attorney fees for fiduciaries are considered expenses of administration and are payable from the estate assets. An exception to this would be if there are claims filed against a personal representative for breach of fiduciary duty, in which it may be inappropriate to pay fees from the estate during the contested proceeding.
Importance of having proper legal guidance for fiduciaries:
Personal representatives are sometimes misinformed or unaware of the many duties they are delegated to handle in an administration, which is why it is imperative to have a skilled attorney advising you through the process. Poor advisement, misinformation, or lack of information can put a fiduciary at risk for being sued for monetary damages for breach of fiduciary duty. Beneficiaries may also be unsure of what to expect throughout the administration or if their rights are being properly protected.
Ms. Rountree has dealt with a variety of issues that often arise during probate administrations, and she has litigated issues between beneficiaries and fiduciaries. With this experience, the firm is able to offer fiduciaries valuable foresight in handling their duties in a manner that minimizes their exposure to litigation risk in addition to representing beneficiaries in a manner that ensures their legacy is properly managed.
Shannon L. Rountree P.A offers services to represent personal representatives in the delegation of their duties, including accounting, maintenance of estate assets, and distribution of estate assets. The firm also offers services for beneficiaries to monitor the administration process in order to ensure the appointed personal representative is properly accounting for and managing a beneficiary's inheritance.