If estate planning is the process of designing a playbook, estate administration occurs when the playbook is put into action. The process begins with an event that triggers a provision in your estate plan, such as incapacity or death. The plan becomes 'executory', meaning that the individuals you designated in your plan documents must step into action and execute according to your instructions.
Estate administration can be complex and the people you have designated must have competent and experienced counsel to guide them through the process. They must make important decisions sometimes quickly and they need help to make them wisely. They may need to prepare inventories of your property, prepare tax returns, or sign other important documents on your behalf. Ultimately they must divide and distribute your property to those individuals or charities you identified in your will or trust agreement.
Administration of your estate is a responsibility of your trustee. We will be there to assist your trustee administer your trust in accordance with your direction and in the interests of the beneficiaries.
Duties of your Trustee
Florida law places great responsibility upon the individual you designate as Trustee of your trust.
Trustees are given power, but the law imposes protections against possible temptation to abuse such power. Trustees are defined by the Florida Trust Code as fiduciaries with established duties and corresponding liabilities.
Upon accepting the responsibility of trustee, the trustee shall administer the trust in good faith, in accordance with its terms and purposes and the interests of the beneficiaries. The trustee agrees to act against his own self-interests, if need be, in order to administer the trust for the sole benefit of the beneficiaries. The trustee must be loyal to the beneficiaries of the trust, and if he fails to meet his fiduciary duties he can be exposed to personal liability. Because of this, it is very important for a trustee to have competent legal guidance to assist him in performing his duties pursuant to the guidelines set forth in Florida law.
Trustees must follow the direction of the trust instrument itself, as well as federal and state law.
A trustee must maintain communications with the beneficiaries. Keeping the beneficiaries "reasonably informed" is legally required. A prudent trustee will communicate often, and in detail with the beneficiaries of the trust. Each year, the trustee is also required to give a full accounting of the trust (assets, liabilities, revenue received, payments made, etc.) to the beneficiaries. This cannot be waived by the trustee. It is required by law that the annual accounting be performed.
In administering the trust, trustees may seek assistance and guidance by professionals, including accountants, bookkeepers and attorneys, to assist the trustee in performing his duties. Because of the personal exposure a trustee undertakes when accepting the job of trust administration, most trustees do engage experienced trust planning and administration attorneys to assist them in their duties.