Attorney Jay Fleece Is Featured in the 24th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America©

BaskinFleece lawyer Jay FleeceBaskin Fleece partner Joseph W. “Jay” Fleece, III, was selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America 2018 in the field of Trusts and Estates Litigation. Best Lawyers® is based on an exhaustive peer-review evaluation. This year, 7.4 million votes were analyzed, resulting in the inclusion of more than 58,000 lawyers in the Best Lawyers Jay Fleece24th edition. Lawyers are not required nor allowed to pay a fee to be listed. Corporate Counsel magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”

To schedule an appointment with a Baskin Fleece attorney, call (727) 572-4545. For more information about Baskin Fleece, visit www.BaskinFleece.com.

 

How Property Passes on Death.

BaskinFleece lawyer Jay Fleece

Attorney Jay Fleece

When someone dies, their property, be it real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, jewelry, automobiles or whatever that person owns must pass to someone legally entitled to those assets. There are three basic ways property passes on death. Each way depends on how the particular asset is owned or titled at the time of death.

1. Probate. If someone owns an asset in his or her own name at the time of death, that asset should pass to the deceased beneficiaries that are specified in his or her will. If the decedent did not have a will, then the property owned by the decedent will pass under the laws of Probate lawyerintestacy. In other words, the state of Florida makes a will for the decedent. This doesn’t mean all of the decedent’s property passes to the state but rather to individuals depending on their relationship to the decedent.

Florida statutes 732.102 and 732.103 set forth the statutory scheme for intestate succession. For example if a man dies without a will but is survived by a spouse and children of that marriage, then the surviving spouse is entitled to the first $60,000.00 of assets and anything over that amount is equally divided between the surviving spouse and the children.

When property passes by the terms of a last will and testament or by intestate succession, the process by which this transfer is accomplished is called probate. Probate is essentially a court supervised process whereby a decedent’s property is transferred in an orderly fashion to the ones legally entitled to those assets.

trusts and estate plans2. Trusts. Some people elect to create a revocable “living” trust during their lifetime. Here, the trust assets are typically titled in the name of the trust. The grantor, the one creating the trust, has full power to change, modify and revoke the trust during his or her lifetime. After the death of the grantor, these trusts usually terminate and the disposition of the property held in the trust will be governed by the terms of the trust. These type of trusts typically contain language very similar to language used in a last will and testament, which specifies how and to whom the decedent’s property will pass. A successor trustee named in the trust document would then have the responsibility of effectuating the terms of the trust and to make sure the intended beneficiaries receive what the decedent intended. The administration of the trust is also similar to the probate process but is not subject to court supervision.

Estate expenses: The personal representative’s compensation is usually determined in one of five ways:3. By contractual provisions. Assets subject to contractual provisions pass outside the probate process and the trust process. These assets pass directly to the recipients designated in the contract that governs that asset. The most prevalent type of asset that passes by contract would be a joint bank account. Typically a bank account titled in two or more names will pass to the survivor. Other type of contractual bank accounts include the payable on death account, or the “held in trust for …” account, a Totten trust as these types of accounts are sometimes called. Other forms of contractual arrangements which pass property directly to a named beneficiary include life insurance policies, retirement accounts and annuities.

Why someone should engage in estate planning. While each of these areas are discussed in greater detail in other articles, this basic outline should illustrate how important it is to make sure that you understand how your assets are titled and how they will pass on death. The unintended consequences of improperly titling your assets could have a devastating effect on your estate plan. For those with substantial wealth, estate planning from a tax perspective can save on income and estate taxes.

To schedule an appointment with a BaskinFleece attorney, call (727) 572-4545. For more information about BaskinFleece, visit www.BaskinFleece.com.

This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. 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.

Probate and Trust Administration Challenges

Trust Administration
BaskinFleece handles all aspects of probate and trust administration.
 
Trust administration is that process whereby assets and cash which were funded into a revocable or irrevocable trust during the decedent’s lifetime or “poured into the trust after his or her passing”, are marshaled/gathered and made ready for distribution to the beneficiaries named in the trust. Trust administration also requires the filing of a notice of trust with the probate court and is the process whereby creditors are paid, and after all state and federal tax returns are filed and all creditors and other administrative expenses are paid, the trustee makes a final distribution of the trust assets and cash. The process is similar to Florida probate administration, but there is no circuit judge supervising the administration, nor is a fiduciary bond usually posted, and many times it can be accomplished more efficiently, and thereby cheaper and faster, than a full probate administration.


trusts and ProbateMany of the same contested issues in a probate estate also exist in trust matters.
 
The main difference is that an independent civil action needs to be filed in order to invoke the jurisdiction of the court and have summonses issued to the Defendants. As Florida trust administration is not court supervised, it is up to the beneficiaries, rather than the probate judge, to make sure the trustee is discharging his duties in accordance with the trust terms and with the law. For the most part the only way a beneficiary can review what the trustee has done is through the annual accounting Estate expenses: The personal representative’s compensation is usually determined in one of five ways:which the trustee must provide each qualified beneficiary every year. If the accounting is not provided, the trustee has breached his fiduciary duty to keep beneficiaries informed, which could result in litigation. There are many other fiduciary duties imposed upon a trustee which, if violated, subject the trustee to removal, surcharge or other remedies imposed by the courts. Our lawyers have handled a variety of wills and trust litigation in the courts of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and throughout Florida.

BaskinFleece lawyer Jay Fleece

Attorney Jay Fleece

BaskinFleece handles cases from the pre-suit stages, including mediation, all the way through trial, both jury and non-jury, and even at the appellate level, if necessary. The main focus of the firm in dealing with all controversies is the client. Cost, emotional impact and timeliness are all important to the client and the firm strives for an end result which leaves the client feeling that justice was accomplished. For help or answers to estate-related questions, you can contact BaskinFleece at 727.572.4545.

 

This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. 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.

When does a trust terminate and the assets distributed to the beneficiaries?

BaskinFleece lawyer Jay Fleece

By Attorney Jay Fleece

In Florida, a common estate planning scenario is for someone to create a revocable trust, sometimes referred to as a “Living Trust” and place all or most of his or her assets into the trust. The Settlor, the one setting up the trust, is typically named the initial trustee and deals with the trust property in the same fashion as if the assets were still owned by and in the name of the Settlor, with the absolute right to amend or revoke the trust and without having to account to any beneficiary.

Upon the death of the Settlor, everything changes. As the Settlor can no longer amend the trust, it becomes “irrevocable” at which time the beneficiaries named in the trust become established or vested.

Living TrustMany of these “Living Trusts” are set up to provide that upon the death of the Settlor the trust terminates and distribution is made of the trust assets to the named beneficiaries, similar to a will, but without court supervision.

Before anything can be done with the assets in a Living Trust which terminates after the death of the Settlor, a successor trustee must assume the trusteeship of the trust. Typically, the Settlor has identified and nominated someone – someone highly trusted – to be the successor trustee to take over the trust upon the Settlor’s death. Many times, a Trust Company is named as the successor trustee. The nominated successor trustee should immediately engage an attorney to guide him or her through administering a trust.

Trustee has 60 days

The Florida Trust Code then requires that a successor trustee, within 60 days after finding out that a formerly revocable trust has become irrevocable (which usually means within 60 days of the Settlor’s death), to give notice to the beneficiaries of the trust’s existence, the identity of the Settlor or Settlors, the right to request a copy of the trust instrument and the right to accountings under that section of the Code.[i]

Once the successor trustee is in place to discharge the duties as trustee, are the assets then immediately distributed to the beneficiaries named in the trust? The answer is usually no even though the successor trustee is under a fiduciary duty to make distribution when the trust terminates.

Trustee an TrustThe termination date of a trust means the time at which it becomes the duty of the trustee to wind up administration of the trust. “The period for winding up the trust refers to the period after the termination date and before trust administration ends by complete distribution of the trust estate”.[ii]

Following a trust’s termination date, the trustee has a duty within a reasonable time to distribute the trust property to the persons entitled to it, and to make preliminary distributions as appropriate within the windup period.[iii]  The Florida Trust Code provides that the successor trustee shall proceed expeditiously to distribute the trust property to the persons entitled to the property, subject to the right of the trustee to retain a reasonable reserve for the payment of debts, expenses, and taxes.[iv]  The Code also provides that on termination of the trust, the successor trustee continues to possess the powers appropriate to wind up the administration of the trust and distribute the trust property to the persons entitled to the property, subject to the right of the trustee to retain a reasonable reserve for the payment of debts, expenses, and taxes.[v]  Many practioners refer to this period between the Settlor’s death and final distribution as the “windup” period, or the “windup” trust.

The common law is clear that a successor trustee’s powers and duties do not end on the trust’s termination but continues for a reasonable amount of time to wind up the administration of the trust prior to making distribution in a manner consistent with the purposes of the trust and the interests of the beneficiaries.[vi]

Living trust wind up periodWhat is a reasonable amount of time to wind-up the administration of a trust and make distribution? This question has no clear answer as each case is different depending on the assets held in the trust, whether those assets are easily valued and distributable and determining and satisfying any trust obligations including any tax liabilities. Each trust would be judged by the facts unique to its administration. There should be a legitimate reason for the trustee to have a long “windup” period, other than wanting to collect additional fees and remain in control of the trust assets. On the trust’s termination, the assets belong to the beneficiaries only subject to the “windup” period.

As part of the wind-up process, the successor trustee should provide a final accounting which should include a plan of distribution for any undistributed assets shown on the final accounting.[vii] The successor trustee cannot be held liable for not making distributions before the expiration of the six-month limitation period within which beneficiaries can challenge the final accounting, provided the beneficiary receives a limitations notice with the final accounting. The beneficiaries can always waive the six-month period by approving the accounting and releasing the successor trustee from liability as providing a final accounting is the only mechanism available to the trustee to determine and limit liability. As an alternative, the trustee may request judicial approval of the accounting but this procedure would invariably take longer than six months and be an unnecessary expense to the trust.

When these “Living Trusts” terminate upon the Settlor’s death, a successor trustee whoTrust in Tampa and St. Petersburg fails to distribute assets and bring the trust administration to a conclusion in a timely fashion after the death of the Settlor has committed a breach of fiduciary duty and can be held accountable.[viii]

The breach of the fiduciary duty to timely make distribution is usually not done in isolation but typically involves other breaches committed by the successor trustee, including failing to provide an annual accounting and either mismanaging the trust assets or using those assets for his or her own benefit.


[i] Fla. Stat. §736.0813(1)(b).
[ii] 89 Restatement of The Law on Trusts 3d, comment b.
[iii] 89 Restatement of The Law on Trusts 3d, comment (e).
[iv] Fla. Stat. §736.0817
[v] Fla. Stat. §736.0816(25)
[vi] Restatement of the Law Third, Trusts §89; Bogert’s The Law of Trusts and Trustees §1010.
[vii] Fla. Stat. §736.08135(2)(f)
[viii] DeBello v. Buckman, 916 So.2d 882 (Fla. 4DCA 2005)


This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. 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.

Wills, Probate and Trusts: How Property Passes on Death

BaskinFleece lawyer Jay Fleece

By Attorney Jay Fleece

When a person dies, their assets, be it real estate, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, jewelry, automobiles or whatever else they may own must pass to someone legally entitled to those assets. There are three basic ways property passes on death. Each way depends on how the particular asset is owned or titled at the time of death.

Probate

If someone owns an asset in their individual name at the time of death, that asset should pass to the beneficiaries specified in the decedent’s will. If the decedent did not have a will, then the Assetsdecedent’s property will pass under the laws of intestacy. In other words, the state of Florida decides how your assets will be distributed. This does not mean all of the decedent’s property passes to the state, but rather to individuals based on their relationship to the decedent.

Florida statutes 732.102 and 732.103 set forth the statutory scheme for intestate succession. For example, if an individual dies without a will and is survived by a spouse and children of that marriage, then the surviving spouse is entitled to the first $60,000.00 of assets and anything over that amount is equally divided between the surviving spouse and the children.

When property passes under the terms of a last will and testament or by intestate succession, the process by which this transfer is accomplished is called probate. Probate is a court supervised process whereby a decedent’s property is transferred in an orderly fashion to those legally entitled to the assets.

Living wills and trustsTrusts

Some people elect to create a revocable “living” trust during their lifetime. In such a case, certain assets are transferred to the trust and retitled  in the name of the trust. The individual creating the trust, called the “Grantor,” has full power to change, modify and revoke the trust during his or her lifetime. After the death of the grantor, these trusts become irrevocable and the trust property is disposed of in accordance with the terms of the trust. This type of trust, called a “Grantor Trust,” often contains language very similar to language used in a last will and testament, which specifies how and to whom the decedent’s property will pass. A trustee named in the trust document would then have the responsibility of distributing the trust assets in accordance with the terms of the trust. Administration of a trust is similar to the probate process but is not subject to court supervision.

contractual provisionsContractual Provisions

Assets governed by contractual provisions pass outside the probate and trust administration process. Instead, these assets pass directly to the recipients designated in the contract governing the asset. The most prevalent type of asset that passes by contract is joint bank accounts. Typically a bank account titled in two or more names will pass to the surviving owners of the account. Other assets governed by contractual provisions include payable on death accounts, and accounts “held in trust for.”  Payable on death accounts are frequently referred to as “Totten Trusts.” Other forms of contractual arrangements that pass property directly to a named beneficiary include life insurance policies, retirement accounts and annuities.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 9.36.32 AMWhy you should engage in estate planning

While each of these areas are discussed in greater detail in other articles, this basic outline should illustrate how important it is to make sure that you understand how your assets are titled and how they will pass on death. The unintended consequences of improperly titling your assets could have a devastating effect on your estate plan. For those with substantial wealth, estate planning from a tax perspective can save on income and estate taxes.

This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. 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.

What Does a Personal Representative Do?

The personal representative of an estate is a person, bank, or trust company appointed by the judge to administer the decedent’s estate. In Florida, the term “personal representative” is used instead of such terms as “executor, executrix, administrator and administratrix.”

Probate assets are those assets that the decedent owned in his or her sole name at death, or that were owned by the decedent and one or more co-owners and lacked a provision for automatic succession of ownership at death. The personal representative is empowered by the court to:

  1. Identify, gather, value, and safeguard the decedent’s probate and non-probate assets.
  2. Object to improper claims against the estate, and defend suits brought on such claims.
  3. File tax returns and pay any taxes properly due.
  4. Pay valid claims against the estate.
  5. Publish a “Notice to Creditors” in a local newspaper in order to give notice to potential claimants to file claims in the manner required by law.
  6. Serve a “Notice of Administration” which provides information about the pending estate administration and notice of the procedures required to be followed by those with an objection to the administration of the decedent’s estate.
  7. Employ professionals, as necessary, to assist in the administration of the decedent’s estate; for example, attorneys, certified public accountants, appraisers and investment advisors.
  8. Conduct a diligent search to locate “known or reasonably ascertainable” creditors, and notify these creditors of the time by which their claims must be filed.
  9. joint accounts in estate planningPay expenses of administering the decedent’s estate.
  10. Pay statutory amounts to the decedent’s surviving spouse or family.
  11. Distribute estate assets to beneficiaries.
  12. Close the estate.

If the personal representative mismanages the decedent’s probate estate, the personal representative may be liable to the beneficiaries for any harm they may suffer.

To schedule an appointment with a BaskinFleece attorney, call (727) 572-4545. For more information about BaskinFleece, visit www.BaskinFleece.com.

This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. 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.

A Personal Representative’s Compensation for Ordinary Services

Personal Representative's compensationThe Florida Statutes: Compensation of a Personal Representative

The personal representative, the attorney, and other professionals whose services may be required in administering the probate estate (such as appraisers and accountants) are entitled by law to reasonable compensation. The personal representative’s compensation is usually determined in one of five ways:

  1. as set forth in the will;
  2. as set forth in a contract between the personal representative and the decedent;
  3. as agreed among the personal representative and the persons who will bear the impact of the personal representative’s compensation;
  4. the amount presumed to be reasonable as calculated under Florida law, if the amount is not objected to by any of the beneficiaries; or
  5. as determined by the judge.

Probate and personal representative

If no arrangements were made for compensation of the personal representative, a personal representative shall be entitled to a commission payable from the estate assets without court order as compensation for ordinary services. The commission shall be based on the compensable value of the estate, which is the inventory value of the probate estate assets and the income earned by the estate during administration. A commission computed on the compensable value of the estate is presumed to be reasonable compensation for a personal representative in formal administration as follows:

  • At the rate of 3 percent for the first $1 million.
  • At the rate of 2.5 percent for all above $1 million and not exceeding $5 million.
  • At the rate of 2 percent for all above $5 million and not exceeding $10 million.
  • At the rate of 1.5 percent for all above $10 million.

Real estate as probate assetIn addition to the previously described commission, a personal representative shall be allowed further compensation as is reasonable for any extraordinary services including, but not limited to:

  • The sale of real or personal property.
  • The conduct of litigation on behalf of or against the estate.
  • Involvement in proceedings for the adjustment or payment of any taxes.
  • The carrying on of the decedent’s business.
  • Dealing with protected homestead.
  • Any other special services which may be necessary for the personal representative to perform.

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

 

This blog is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. 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.