Probate, Estate & Trust Administration

When someone dies, their final affairs must be settled. Property and things in which the decedent had an interest must be identified, collected, protected, valued, and marshalled. Obligations of the decedent must be identified, verified, and those legitimate obligations, settled. If there’s anything left over after the bills are paid, the leftovers must be distributed in accordance with the decedent’s wishes, if they were expressed, and if not, in accordance with governing law. These things do not happen automatically. There is a process that must be adhered to. If that process is conducted under the supervision of a Court, the process is called Estate Administration. Estate Administration is frequently referred to interchangeably as Probate, although Estate Administration and Probate are technically not the same. If the settlement process involves a trust, the process is called Trust Administration.

Regardless of what the process is called, a living person must drive the process. If the process is called Probate or Estate Administration, the person in charge is called “Personal Representative” or “Administrator”. The Personal Representative/Administrator is appointed by a Judge. If the process involves a Trust, the administrator of the trust is called a “Trustee”. The Trustee is most often a person appointed by the creator of the trust and is named in the Trust’s governing document (the Trust Agreement). Irrespective of what you call them, the person in charge is a fiduciary and has legal duties and obligations to the people who have an interest in the settlement process.

Being a fiduciary is often a thankless job. In the early stages of administration, the Fiduciary’s job is frequently conducted during a time when they are experiencing grief of their own and are mourning the loss of a loved one. Compounding that is the fact that the fiduciary is sandwiched in unfamiliar territory between the interests of the decedent’s creditors who are concerned with getting paid and the decedent’s beneficiary(s), who are anxious to receive their inheritance.

At Casey Law Group, PL we work hard to take the thanklessness out of the Fiduciary’s job. We begin by relieving some of the initial pressure on the Fiduciary and allowing them to grieve. We do this by educating the client and taking the unknown out of the picture. Expectations are set, tasks and responsibilities are identified, assigned, and scheduled. Deadlines are scheduled and monitored. The Fiduciary is kept informed of their fiduciary duties and obligations every step of the way.

Next, we monitor the Fiduciary to ensure that no responsibilities or deadlines are overlooked and that tasks are completed on time. We make ourselves readily available to our clients at all times to deal with any issues that may arise and to answer questions as they come up.

Lastly, we guide the Fiduciary through the shortest and quickest route possible to the completion of the settlement process.

With limited exceptions, Florida law requires a Personal Representative to be represented by a lawyer. Inexperienced Trustees are encouraged not to go it alone. In either case we’re here for you. Contact us or give us a call. We’re happy to talk with you about how we can help.