Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A

Probate, Estate & Trust Administration
Probate, which is also called estate administration, is Florida’s legal process of winding up a deceased’s financial, tax and other aspects of their personal life. Probate is typically required regardless of whether there was a Will or not as it is the legal process of resolving clean title to assets and extinguishing any debts. It will usually involve the Clerk of Court overseeing the proper collection and disposition of assets of the deceased’s estate. In cases where a trust is involved the Clerk of Court oversight may not be needed, but other tax and legal reporting is still required.

When someone close to you passes away there are so many things that the family and friends who are left behind are faced with it is sometimes difficult for them to get the legal process of administering the estate started and eventually behind them. That is where Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A can assist by making sure the legal process of probate or an estate or trust administration is carried out properly and efficiently.

What Are Some Common Mistakes in Probate or Trust Administration?
If you are the appointed Executor, Administrator or Trustee then you have been left with the burden of ensuring the deceased’s wishes are carried out in the proper way as they have directed and according to Florida law. Most times there is no guidebook left by the deceased, but if you are lucky you have good estate plan documents and an idea of the estate’s assets and activities. Seeking an attorney to assist you in this process is key in making sure you can accomplish the duties left to you in the way the deceased intended. Missteps along the way can be costly and cause family issues or financial loss. Some of the most common mistakes Executors, Administrators and Trustees make are:

• Failing to probate an estate to pass clean title to assets
• Not locating assets or not extinguishing creditor claims
• Failing to properly inform beneficiaries as to legal and tax implications of inheritance
• Not following the Clerk’s mandated timeline for processing
• Missing unknown assets or failing to protect known assets
• Failing to properly file tax returns for deceased, estate and trusts
• Taking steps which are not required, but create undo expenses and loss of assets

Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A can assist you to make the right decisions and avoid mistakes in the estate and trust administration process for all involved.

What is Typically Involved in Probate?
Although there are some standard steps that all estates must go through for probate or proper administration the process varies greatly based on the specifics of the Will, the family and beneficiary situation, the type of assets and other aspects of the deceased’s life. Most estate administrations involve:

1. Verifying if there was a Will, Trust or other document and whether it is valid or not.
2. Gathering information regarding the assets, debts and other items pertaining to the deceased.
3. Reviewing the distributions plan under the Will, Trust or North Carolina intestate law to determine who beneficiaries are and what they are entitled to.
4. Meeting with and filing initial estate inventories and documents with the Clerk of Court in order receive appointment as Executor, Trustee or Administrator.
5. Collecting assets, paying debts and communicating with beneficiaries.
6. Filing accountings and other paperwork with the Clerk of Court regarding asset values, expenses and other items
7. Publishing legal notice to creditors to extinguish any future claims against estate assets
8. Preparing and filing any final tax returns of deceased and the estate or trust
9. Selling and distributing property
10. Preparing and filing closing documents with Clerk of Court to verify all items have been completed and assets distributed properly.

Judy-Ann Smith Law Firm, P.A involvement in probate and estate administration varies based on your needs. Some advantages we offer include providing an initial consultant with you as the Executor or Trustee, being there on an as-needed basis, completing process implementation and guiding you through the proper legal steps from start to finish. The choice is yours as to time and complexity to determine how much legal advice you desire to verify the proper administration is followed.

What You Need to Prepare
To assist in making the Florida probate and estate or trust administration process efficient and timely you should gather the following documents:

• The original signed estate plan documents including Wills, Trusts or other planning documents.
• A copy of the funeral bill showing payment
• A general list of assets and debts.
• Copies of any deeds or addresses for any real estate
• Any life insurance, annuity, retirement plans or other benefit contracts, including policy numbers and names and addresses of the insurance companies.
• Titling and information of any safe deposit boxes and the institutions in which they are held.
• A list of final expenses, including last illness expenses, utility bills, property taxes or any other bills of this nature that are or were outstanding at the date of death.
• Names and contact information for each potential or known beneficiary of the estate
• Certified copy of the death certificate

Probate Attorney Hilliard