The Florida Probate Lawyer
Representing Probate Personal Representatives, Trustees, and Beneficiaries Throughout Florida
Main Office:
10161 Centurion Parkway, Ste 310
Jacksonville, Florida 32256
Telephone:  (904) 448-1969
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Florida Trust Administration Attorneys and Lawyers

ADMINISTRATION OF A LIVING TRUST

AFTER THE DEATH OF AN INDIVIDUAL TRUSTMAKER

The estate settlement and trust administration attorney with The Florida Probate Lawyer, PLLC assist successor trustees for living trusts in fulfilling their responsibilities and fiduciary duties as successor trustee in the administration or settlement of revocable living trusts (sometimes called a "trust probate") after the death of the trustmaker (the trustmaker is referred to with the legal terms "grantor", "trustor", or "settlor").

If you need an experienced Florida trust administration lawyer or trust estate settlement attorney, with the administration in Florida of a revocable living trust after the death of the trustmaker, please contact The Florida Probate Lawyer, PLLC to learn how we can help you, toll free 866-510-9099 
or by email to Info@TheFloridaProbateLawyer.com
.

The administration and distribution of assets held in a revocable living trust following the death of an individual Trustmaker is considerably easier, less time consuming and much less expensive than probate
. However, there are still many things that need to be done by the successor Trustee before the assets of the trust can or should be distributed to the beneficiaries.


Although the needs of each situation will vary considerably depending on the size of the trust estate and the nature or location of the trust assets, as well as the details or manner in which the distribution of the trust assets was structured by the decedent, and how completely the revocable living trust was actually funded (meaning all the assets were properly placed into the trust through the proper retitling of the assets), the following will provide a list of recommendations and general guidelines for the successor Trustee of a revocable living trust:

        1. Don’t make any rash decisions or act hastily regarding the distribution of any estate assets! If trust assets are distributed without proper observance of possible tax liabilities
, potential creditors’ claims or precise fulfillment of the trust instructions, the Trustee could be held personally liable for the consequences.

        2. Attend to the memorial and funeral arrangements of the deceased Trustmaker if this has not already been done or is not being handled by someone else.

        3. Contact the deceased Trustmaker’s estate planning attorney (or if unknown or unavailable, another estates and trusts attorney who specializes in estate settlement and trust administration) and schedule an appointment to establish a professional relationship for guidance and direction to properly handle the successor Trustee’s responsibilities. This does not have to be done immediately, but is recommended within 20 to 30 days after the Trustmaker’s death.

        4. The time preceding the estates and trusts attorney visit should be used to help settle the emotions that follow the death of a family member or close friend and to begin the accumulation of documents and information (described hereafter) that will be needed by the estate settlement lawyer or trust administration attorney.



If you need a Florida trust administration attorney for the administration of a revocable living trust in Florida, please call us toll free at 866-510-9099.

Accumulation of documents and information:

Since the death tax or federal estate tax return (Form 706), if required, is due nine months after the Trustmaker’s death, the accumulation of documents, appraisals, etc. described hereafter should be completed as soon as possible either before or shortly after the first meeting with the estate’s attorney.


A general description of what will have to be compiled and the steps or procedures for the successor Trustee to do are summarized as follows:




        · Obtain and organize all billings or other papers regarding the deceased Trustmaker’s final medical treatments.

        · Request several certified copies of the death certificate as such will be needed for various steps in the estate administration and termination process. Usually, 6 to 10 certified copies will be sufficient.

        · If any safe deposit boxes exist (hopefully in the name of the revocable living trust so they will be readily accessible), they should all be checked and all ownership documents, insurance policies and other important papers should be removed for delivery to and review by the estate’s attorney. (This usually cannot be done until the successor Trustee has a certified death certificate and appropriate pages from the trust to present to the bank.)

        · Locate the original of the living trust agreement and other documents that make up the Trustmaker’s estate plan. (If not found, the Trustmaker’s estate planning attorney usually has a copy.)

        · If the deceased Trustmaker was living alone, the locks should be changed and other steps taken, if necessary, to close and secure the residence. If the residence will be vacant, the insurance carriers should be notified of that fact.

        · Automobile insurance and any other pertinent insurance policies should be checked to be certain trust assets are insured against potential loss or liability.

        · All life insurance policies should be located or searched out and then compiled for the eventual filing of claims to recover the life insurance proceeds that would now be due to the trust (or other beneficiary if the Trustmaker did not name the trust as the beneficiary).

        · A list of all household furniture and furnishings (by major items or categories) should be made, and to be absolutely safe if several beneficiaries are involved, photographs should be taken of the household contents or an unrelated and disinterested witness should be present when the list is made. The witness should then sign the list as to its accuracy and completeness. The list will also be of great help in keeping track of where personal property items are eventually distributed, and to provide a record of compliance with the terms of the trust agreement.

        · All other assets of the estate such as automobiles, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pensions, IRAs and other retirement funds, boats, planes and other vehicles, bank accounts, business or partnership interests, trust deeds or promissory notes payable to the deceased Trustmaker or the living trust, etc., etc. should all be inventoried with a description of each and statement of value when the Trustmaker died. If financial statements from banks or investment companies or similar items are available, they should be compiled as well.

        · The names of all institutions or persons holding assets titled to the revocable living trust should be included in the inventory with their address and phone numbers and, of course, the account numbers.

        · After the trust asset inventory is completed, it may become appropriate to consolidate whatever bank and brokerage accounts exist depending on the terms and instructions found in the living trust document and to simplify both distribution to heirs or subsequent accounting of the monies as part of the administration process. However, this should not be done prematurely and is best deferred until after the first meeting with the estate’s attorney, and possibly later.

        · Whatever funds are received or disbursed to satisfy expenses or possibly as a partial distribution of the estate assets, the transaction must be promptly and accurately written into the check register book or other appropriate accounting record so as to be easily substantiated at a later date if ever challenged. This information is also very important for tax reporting purposes, since if records aren’t kept showing where income came from and what expenses were paid, it’s impossible to determine what income is taxable and what expenses are deductible.

        · Although it is not necessary to pay any bills of the trust estate or the deceased Trustmaker immediately (and sometimes it’s better to wait until everything settles before doing so), all bills should be gathered for evaluation as to their legitimacy and priority status, if any, for eventual payment. Sometimes, a trustee can be held personally liable for debts of the trust estate if the estate has funds to pay those debts, but fails to do so, or if the trustee distributes the living trust funds to other persons. Thus, again, it is safest to determine outstanding liabilities and to complete the inventory of trust assets before making distributions to beneficiaries, since it is very awkward for a trustee to go back to beneficiaries and ask that the trust assets and trust property be returned.

        · If the living trust will generate income from the date of death until all trust assets are distributed, (which is generally the case), a tax identification number needs to be obtained for the living trust. The trust estate’s attorney will normally attend to that process.

        · In other instances, or at least for part of the calendar year in which the Trustmaker died, his or her social security number will continue to be all that is necessary.

        · Federal and state income tax returns will probably be required for the deceased Trustmaker to the date of his or her death, which would be due the following April 15th just as normally required for individuals. However, there may also be a need to prepare and file an IRS Form 1041 trust income tax return for all income received by the living trust after the Trustmaker’s death. The estate’s attorney and whatever accountant selected to handle the trust administration will direct the successor Trustee on all the accounting and tax return requirements.

        · Some states, including Florida, require that the deceased Trustmaker’s Will be filed in the Probate Court for safe keeping even though a probate process will not be required. Thus, if the deceased Trustmaker or the living trust owned assets in another state, the filing of the Will in that state’s probate court may be necessary.

        · Once the above steps are completed and the exact status of the trust estate is determined, the successor Trustee and the trust estate’s attorney will be able to complete the final trust administration and distribution of the trust assets to heirs that may then be appropriate and called for in the living trust document, or simply close the transition process in a way that enables the successor Trustee to carry-on with the balance of the trust document provisions if the structure does not require full termination. Sometime there will be on-going sub-trusts for the life times of named beneficiaries or to certain ages, etc.

        · One important point to remember is that the beginning trust accounting and trust inventory established as of the date of death for the deceased Trustmaker must reconcile with the balances taken at the end of the trust administration period after adjustments for trust funds or trust assets received and distributions made during that time. The trust accounting may then show how trust assets on hand are to be distributed to trust beneficiaries based on the plan of trust asset distribution specified in the trust agreement.

        ·  When trust distributions of trust assets are made, a written receipt and release form should be executed by each trust beneficiary to complete the record keeping and to protect the trustee from further responsibility or liability. Trust funds and trust assets should be distributed to the trust beneficiaries only when they have signed the receipt and release form. (Once trust distributions are made, it is much more difficult to obtain signatures, since it is no longer a priority for the trust beneficiaries.) Again, this is a function that will usually be handled or at least directed by the trust estate’s attorney.

This may sound like a complicated and time consuming job. However, it is considerably easier, faster and substantially less expensive than going through the Florida probate process. Also, the successor trustee can access accounts for the trust immediately (once a death certificate is available), which is more convenient than waiting for authorization from the Florida probate court.

Again, however, it is very important not to act without proper professional guidance, because to do so could easily cause the trust estate or trust beneficiaries and heirs to lose out on many protections and/or tax benefits that were intended to occur by use of the revocable living trust format.

If you need a trust administration lawyer in Florida, please call us toll free at 866-510-9099.

Final comments on inventories, accountings and tax issues:

In preparing the inventory of trust assets, it is important to contact each institution holding trust assets to obtain date of death value, owner, beneficiary (if any), and other pertinent information in regard to the trust assets. In this way, specific ownership, and beneficiary designations, and other pertinent information can be determined before trust distributions of trust assets are made.

It is not acceptable to take values of trust assets from statements, because the IRS has specific requirements for ascertaining date of death values for trust assets, including calculating income earned to date of death even if income has not yet been credited to the trust account. Written verification of values from institutions holding the trust assets or a record of the calculations will be very helpful in the event of an IRS audit. A formal trust inventory also prevents errors, and keeps tax records clean.

The preparation of a trust inventory and a comprehensive trust accounting is also an excellent method of verifying that everything is actually titled in the name of the living trust, and if not, to determine how they are titled so that appropriate decisions and actions can be made with regard to taking possession or control of trust assets.

The bottom line is that all the steps touched upon above are not only important from a legal stand point and the protection of the successor Trustee, but also are necessary to fulfill the specific financial distributions, protections and other goals that were intended by the Trustmaker and his or her use of a revocable living trust document.


CONCLUSION:

Use and follow the advice of the Trustmaker’s estate planning attorney to avoid or reduce state and federal death or income taxes and to protect against personal liability for the successor Trustee.

Don’t act hastily or distribute trust assets of the trust estate without consulting with the trust estate’s attorney.

Prepare an inventory and accurately account for all trust assets and trust funds that come into the trust estate.

Obtain receipts and releases for all trust distributions to trust beneficiaries when they are eventually made and follow all instructions of the living trust agreement in order that once the directed trust distributions are completed, remaining administration of the trust if required for other possible trust beneficiaries will be able to continue without difficulty or controversy.

If you need a Florida trust probate lawyer to administer a trust in Florida, please call us toll free at 866-510-9099.

This material represents general legal information the administration of a revocable living trust after the death of the settlor. Since the Florida law of trusts is continually changing, some provisions may be out of date. It is always best to consult an experienced Florida probate or trust lawyer or attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities regarding your particular case.

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The Florida Probate Lawyers Directory of Florida Counties and cities in which our probate and trust lawyers and attorneys offer probate and trust services:

Alachua County trust lawyers

Gainesville probate lawyer, Alachua, Hawthorne, High Springs, Waldo, Newberry, Micanopy

Bay  

Panama City probate lawyer, Panama City Beach, Lynn Haven, Youngstown

Baker trust attorneys  

Macclenny, Glen Saint Mary

Bradford  

Starke, Brooker, Hampton

Brevard trust attorneys  

Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island, Titusville, Melbourne probate lawyer, Palm Bay, Cape Canaveral, Satellite Beach, Rockledge, Barefoot Bay, Indialantic, Malabar

Broward estates and trusts attorneys  

Ft. Lauderdale probate lawyer, Davie, Sunrise, Weston, Coral Springs probate lawyer, Pompano Beach, Hollywood probate lawyer, Hallendale, Plantation, Dania Beach, Coconut Creek, Deerfield Beach, Lauderhill, Lighthouse Point, Margate, Miramar, Oakland Park, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Wilton Manors, Hillsboro Beach, Pembroke Park, Cooper City, Port Everglades, Sea Ranch Lakes, Southwest Ranches

Calhoun  

Blountstown

Charlotte trust lawyers   

Punta Gorda, Charlotte, Port Charlotte, Palm Island

Citrus  

Crystal River, Homosassa Springs, Inverness

Clay County estates and trusts attorneys 

Orange Park probate lawyer, Middleburg, Green Cove Springs, Keystone Heights, Penny Farms

Collier estate settlement attorney  

Naples probate lawyer, Marco Island, Everglades City, Golden Gate, Immokalee, Palm River Estates, Ochopee

Columbia County trust lawyers 

Lake City probate lawyer, Fort White

DeSoto  

Arcadia, Brownville, Fort Ogden, Hull, Pine Level, Platt

Dixie  

Cross City, Horseshoe Beach, Old Town

Duval County trust attorneys

Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach

Escambia  

Pensacola probate lawyer

Flagler County trust lawyers

Palm Coast probate lawyer, Flagler Beach, Bunnell, Beverly Beach, Marineland

Franklin  

Apalachicola

Gadsden  

Quincy, Chattahoochee

Gilchrest  

Trenton

Glades  

Moorehaven

Gulf  

Port St. Joe, Wewahitchka

Hamilton trust settlement attorneys  

Jasper, White Springs

Hardee  

Wauchula

Hendry  

Clewiston, LaBelle

Hernando  

Brooksville, Weeki Wachi

Highlands trust attorneys  

Avon Park, Sebring, Lake Placid, Leisure Lakes

Hillsborough estates and trusts lawyers   

Tampa probate lawyer, Plant City, Temple Terrace, Apollo Beach, Brandon, Lutz, Ruskin, Sun City Center, Riverview, Dover, Thonotosassa, Ybor City

Holmes  

Bonifay

Indian River  

Vero Beach probate lawyer, Indian River Shores, Fellsmere, Sebastian

Jackson  

Marianna

Jefferson  

Monticello

Lafayette  

Mayo

Lake  

Altoona, Clermont, Eustis, Fruitland Park, Lady lake, Leesburg, Minneola, Mount Dora, Tavares, Umatilla

Lee County
trusts and estate settlement lawyers  

Fort Myers probate lawyer, Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, Boca Grande, Estero, San Carlos Park, Lehigh Acres, Waterway Estates

Leon  

Tallahassee probate lawyer

Levy  

Bronson, Cedar Key, Chiefland, Williston, Yankeetown

Liberty  

Bristol

Madison  

Madison

Manatee estates and trusts attorneys  

Bradenton, Anna Maria Island, Bradenton, Holmes Beach probate lawyer, Longboat Key, Palmetto, Myakka City

Marion trust lawyers  

Ocala probate lawyer, Leesburg, Belleview, Citra, Dunnellon, Salt Springs, Weirsdale

Martin County estate settlement attorney  

Stuart probate lawyer, Sewall’s Point, Hobe Sound, Jensen Beach, Jupiter Island, Ocean Breeze Park, Palm City

Miami-Dade estate settlement and trusts lawyers   

Miami probate lawyer, Coral Gables probate lawyer, Coconut Grove, South Miami, Kendall, Homestead, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Miami Beach, Hialeah, Miami Shores, Miami Lakes, Aventura, Bal Harbour, Bay Harbor Islands, Hialeah Gardens, Key Biscayne, Pinecrest, Surfside, Cutler Bay, Doral, Golden Beach, Indian Village, Islandia, Medley, Miami Gardens, North Bay Village, Sunny Isles Beach, Sweetwater, Virginia Gardens, Florida City, Goulds, Biscayne Park

Monroe estate settlement lawyers  

Key West, Islamorada, Key Largo, Marathon, Big Pine Key, Key Colony Beach, Sugarloaf Key, Tavernier

Nassau County trust attorneys 

Fernandina Beach probate lawyer, Amelia Island, Hilliard, Yulee, Callahan

Okaloosa  

Fort Walton Beach probate lawyer, Niceville, Cinco Bayou, Destin, Shalimar Valparaiso

Okeechobee  

Okeechobee

Orange estate settlement attorneys   

Orlando probate lawyer, Lake Buena Vista, Apopka, Edgewood, Maitland, Ocoee, Windemere, Winter Garden, Winter Park, Zellwood

Osceola  

Kissimmee, St. Cloud, Celebration

Palm Beach estate settlement attorneys   

Palm Beach probate lawyer, West Palm Beach, North Palm Beach, Lake Worth probate lawyer, Boca Raton probate lawyer, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Greenacres, Highland Beach, Hypoluxo, Juno Beach, Jupiter, Lake Park, Lantana, Ocean Ridge, Palm Beach Gardens, Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, Pahokee, Tequesta, Riviera Beach, Loxahatchee, Manalapan, Ocean Ridge, Glen Ridge

Pasco  

New Port Richey, Bayonet Point, Gulf Harbors, Dade City, Holiday, Hudson, Land O’Lakes, Odessa, St. Leo, Zephyrhills

Pinellas County estate settlement lawyers  

St. Petersburg probate lawyer, Clearwater probate lawyer, Dunedin, Gulfport, Largo, Oldsmar, Pinellas Park, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Treasure Island, Belleair, Madeira Beach, North Redington Beach, Seminole, Indian Rocks Beach                              

Polk  

Lakeland probate lawyer, Auburndale. Bartow, Eagle Lake, Fort Meade, Haines City, Lake Alfred, Lake Wales, Winter Haven, Frostproof, Polk City, Highland Park, Indian Lake Estates

Putnam County

Palatka, Interlachen

Santa Rosa  

Gulf Breeze, Milton

Sarasota  

Sarasota probate lawyer, Longboat Key, North Port, Venice

Seminole  

Altamonte Springs, Casselberry, Lake Mary, Longwood, Oviedo, Sanford, Winter Springs

St. Johns County estates and trusts attorneys

St. Augustine probate lawyer, St. Augustine Beach, Ponte Vedra Beach probate lawyer, Nocatee, Crescent City, Melrose, Pomona Park, Welaka

St. Lucie

Fort Pierce probate lawyer, Port St. Lucie

Sumter  

Wildwood, Bushnell, The Villages

Suwannee  

Live Oak

Taylor  

Perry, Steinhatchee

Union  

Lake Butler

Volusia estates and trusts lawyers  

Daytona Beach probate lawyer, Ormond Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Deland, Deltona, Edgewater, Holly Hill, Ponce Inlet, Port Orange

Wakulla  

 

Walton  

DeFuniak Springs, Seaside

Washington  

Chipley

 

 

If you would like to ask a question regarding probate in Florida, please complete the contact form below and submit it to us.  We'll respond as soon as possible.  Provide as much detail as you can.  

If you need immediate assistance with a Florida probate matter, please call us toll free at 866-510-9099.
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