Probate is the legal process wherein that must take place to transfer assets from dead people to living people or entities. It requires Court supervision and is costly and time consuming and public. An estate is composed of all the assets, debts, and claims, pertaining to the deceased. If the deceased had a will, the court will interpret the will to ensure that all debts and claims are resolved and that any remaining assets are distributed as intended by the decedent. If the deceased did not have a will, the estate is distributed according to state probate laws which will determine who the beneficiaries are. The most common and acceptable way the probate process, and costs associated with it, can be avoided is through the establishment of a trust, during the lifetime of the decedent. A will typically names one person to serve as Personal Representative/Executor; this individual serves as the person responsible for the collection of assets, payment of debts, and subsequent disbursements. If the deceased did not have a will, the court will appoint an Administrator to take on this role. Currently, Florida employs two approaches of probate administration: formal administration and summary administration. A third type of administration that does require court-supervision is available on a limited basis.
Probate law is complex and it varies from state to state. Navigating probate law can be a daunting and time consuming process. If you have been named Personal Representative/Executor or Administrator of an estate, or even if your family member did not create a will, our team of experienced attorneys and paralegal staff can assist you in each step of the probate process and work with the court to ensure that all probate assets and debts are resolved, both under the law and according to the decedent’s wishes. Our experience with the Florida Probate Courts and state probate law can also assist in providing the swiftest resolution to the decedent’s estate. We at Eastham Law Offices are professionals representing personal representatives in a manner to assure that our clients do not experience personal liability regarding the probate.
Revocable Living Trusts are designed to be substitute wills and avoid the cost and delay of a probate which is a court supervised administration of a deceased’s estate. They can also avoid unnecessary estate taxes and protect beneificiaries from creditors along with losses from a divorce.
By placing all probatable assets in the Living Trust , our clients avoid the whole probate process. What they don’t avoid is the administration of the Trust. Assets have to be distributed to the named beneficiaries of the Trust which was the deceased’s substitute will, among other things. That distribution may involve the creation of additional Trusts for beneficiaries who are minors, incompetent or that the deceased determined were not capable of properly using their inheritance.
All Trusts name Trustees who are simply managers of the Trust assets with a fiduciary duty to the named beneficiaries in a manner dictated by the creator of the Trust who is called the Trustor, Grantor, Settlor or Creator, which all have the same meaning.
Generally the Trustor has named himself or herself to be the Trustee (manager) of the Trust during his/her life and names, in the Trust, a Successor Trustee or Trustees to administer the Trust upon the Trustor’s death.
Even though the Trust is administered without court supervision, the Successor Trustee(s) has a very big responsibility to strictly act in the highest good faith in performing her or her duties. Florida Statutes provide requirements that the Successor Trustee do in order to prevent being attacked or sued by any or all of the beneficiaries. The Successor Trustee owes a fiduciary duty to all the beneficiaries and to the deceased also.
Our law practice at Eastham Law represents Successor Trustees assisting them in the smooth administration of the Trust and by striving to make sure that the Successor Trustee(s) makes no mistakes in the administration process that would lead to personal liability of our client.
Trust Administration, like Probate is the final process of Estate Planning and Asset Protection for the deceased. Many of our Successor Trustee clients use Eastham Law Offices to put their own Estate Planning and Asset Protection needs.
Remember, the Attorneys at Eastham Law Offices primarily do all of representation based upon flat fees. In other words, you will know the cost of our services before engaging us.