What is a Trust and a Trustee’s Responsibility for an Estate?

If the decedent had established what is commonly referred to as a “Revocable Trust” – for it to work properly, assets must be transferred into it. Important: Titles must be changed from an “individual” name to the name of the revocable living trust. Because the name is no longer on the titles, there is no reason for the Florida probate court to be involved if the Trustee becomes incapacitated or when the person dies. The estate assets in the decedent’s revocable trust are a part of his or her gross estate for the purposes of determining federal estate tax liability.

21-TrusteeWhen a Revocable Trust is executed, the Trustee is usually the person who executed the trust. Married couples are often co-trustees, so that when one dies or becomes incapacitated, the surviving spouse can continue to handle their finances with no other actions or steps required. Many people choose to be their own trustee and continue to manage their affairs for as long as they are able. However, the Trustee, is ultimately responsible to the beneficiaries for prudent management of the trust assets, therefore they should also consult with an experienced estate planner and trust attorney.

The Settlor (also called the Grantor), of the trust could appoint another person or financial institution as the Trustee of his or her revocable trust. If you have been named as a current Trustee or Co-trustee, you may already be acting in that capacity and need to be aware of your duties and responsibilities as trustee of the estate.

The Trustee is always required to file a “Notice of Trust” with the clerk of the court in the county in which the decedent resided at the time of the decedent’s death. The purpose of the notice of trust is to make the decedent’s creditors aware of the existence of the trust and of their rights to enforce their claims against the trust assets.

All of the tasks which must be performed by a personal representative, in connection with the administration of a probate estate, must also be performed by the Trustee of a revocable trust – though the Trustee generally will not need to file the same documents with the clerk of the court. Furthermore, if a probate proceeding is not commenced, the assets comprising the decedent’s revocable trust are subject to a two-year creditor’s claim period, rather than the three-month non-claim period available to a personal representative.

For help or answers to estate related questions, you can contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

An estate related article from the New York Times business section:

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Click below for a Revocable versus Irrevocable Trust article.

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Estate planning: How Long Does Probate Take?

It depends on the facts of each situation; some probate administrations take longer than others. For example, the personal representative may need to sell real estate prior to settling the probate estate, or to resolve a disputed claim filed by a creditor or a lawsuit filed to challenge the validity of the will. Any of these circumstances, if present, would tend to lengthen the process of administration. Even the simplest of probate estates must be open for at least the three-month creditor claim period; it is reasonable to expect that a simple probate estate will take about five or six months to properly handle.

Will and probate information.

Probate and the distribution of the assets of a will could take months.

If the estate does not have to file a federal estate tax return, the final accounting and other documents necessary to close the probate estate are first due within 12 months after the court issues Letters of Administration to the personal representative. This period can be extended if necessary.

If the estate is required to file a federal estate tax return, the return is initially due nine months after the date of the decedent’s death; however, the time for filing the return can be extended for another six months. If a federal estate tax return is required, the final accounting and other documents to close the probate administration are due within 12 months from the date the estate tax return, as extended, is due. This date can also be extended if necessary.
New York TimesThe new tax law signed by President Obama may effect you. Read the New York Times article titled:  “Efforts to Avoid Probate Can Carry Their Own Risks.”

Some of the content of this information is courtesy of The Florida Bar and represents general legal advice. Because the law is continually changing, some provisions in this blog may be out of date. It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities in your particular case.
For help or answers to probate and estate related questions, you can contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.
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April 1st – This Day in History …

… and all this really happened on April Fools Day!


1700: April Fools Day tradition is popularized.

1789: The first U.S. House of Representatives forms and elects its first speaker.

1800 New York City: The trial of Levi Weeks in New York City ends with his acquittal. The jury, either persuaded by the defense or extremely tired (the trial wrapped up after 2 a.m.), returned with their verdict after only five minutes.

Levi Weeks trial book

The case, known as the Manhattan Well Mystery, had captivated the New York City public. It began on January 2, 1800, when Gulielma Sands was found dead at the bottom of a well. Sands lived in a boardinghouse in lower Manhattan and had been engaged to marry Levi Weeks, who also lived in the building.

Not much is known about what really happened to Sands, but the case provides insight into how trials were conducted 200 years ago. Women attorneys, judges, and jurors were unheard of at the time, and the court had very different rules with regard to the clock: Trials didn’t stop in the late afternoon, or even the early evening. In fact, trials were known to proceed past 2 a.m. Requests for breaks from lawyers claiming fatigue were denied.

In addition, the finer points of evidence and objections were barely developed. In the two-day trial, 75 witnesses appeared and testified. They were generally allowed to tell what they knew without interruption from questions or objections.

Less than five years after defense attorneys Hamilton and Burr teamed up to save Levi Weeks, they fought each other in a duel that left Hamilton dead. Levi Weeks went on to become a respected architect in Natchez, Mississippi. He died in 1819, at the age of 43.

1877 Tombstone: Ignoring the taunts of fellow miners who say he will only find his own tombstone, April1-Tombstoneprospector Edward Schieffelin begins his search for silver in the area of present-day southern Arizona. Schieffelin then found on this date one of the  richest silver veins in the West. He named it the Tombstone Lode.

1945 Okinawa: On this day 50,000 U.S. combat troops of the 10th Army land on Okinawa, 350 miles south of Kyushu, the southern main island of Japan.

1960 Satellite: The first weather satellite was launched.TIROS-1, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The polar-orbiting craft was not constantly pointed at earth and could only operate in daylight, so coverage was not continuous. It functioned for just 78 days, but it sent back thousands of pictures of cloud patterns forming and moving across the face of the planet. And it proved the theory that satellites could effectively survey global weather from space.

1970 Cigarettes: President Richard Nixon signs legislation officially banning cigarette ads on April1-Nixontelevision and radio. Nixon, who was an avid pipe smoker, indulging in as many as eight bowls a day, supported the legislation at the increasing insistence of public health advocates.

1985 College Basketball: One of the greatest upsets in college basketball history, the Villanova Wildcats beat the Georgetown Hoyas, 66-64, to win the NCAA Men’s Division I tournament. The victory was Villanova’s first-ever national championship. Patrick Ewing played center on the losing Georgetown team.

2004 Google’s Gmail: Gmail was launched as an advertising-supported email service provided by Google on an invitation-only beta release.

April 1, 2004: Joseph (Jay) Fleece III, and Hamden Baskin III, formed the law firm of BaskinFleece. They decided to combine their extensive knowledge and experience to create a unique law firm that was focused mainly on contested estate, trust and Jay&Hamdenguardianship matters. Their philosophy was simple: leverage trial skills with the knowledge of probate and trust law to provide consistent, efficient and effective representation for their clients – resulting in positive outcomes.

2013: Congratulations to Jay Fleece, Hamden Baskin and their team for serving the community and its clients since 2004.