Probate and Trust Administration Challenges

Attorney Jay Fleece handles all aspects of probate and trust administration – and litigation.

Trust AdministrationTrust 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. The key is to have an honest trustee, otherwise, litigation may ensue.

Many 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 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.

St. Petersburg Lawyer Jay Fleece deals with litigationSt. Petersburg attorney Jay Fleece 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.

To schedule an appointment with Jay Fleece:  

Phone: 727-471-5868   jfleece@legacyprotectionlawyers.com 

Trust estate litigation

Trust estate litigation: breach of fiduciary duty

Many of the same contested issues in a probate estate also exist in trust estate litigation matters.

Trust estate litigationThe 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 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 trust estate litigation, and the trustee is held liable.

Duty to Account: A trustee has broad discretion in dealing with trust property, subject to the duty of loyalty, a duty of impartiality and the other fiduciary duties imposed on the trustee. The trustee operates with very little oversight by anyone over the trust’s assets. The trustee is not Trust estate litigation and the trustee's responsibilityunder court supervision unless the court’s jurisdiction is invoked and is only accountable to the beneficiaries of the trust. Practically the only time a beneficiary can review what the trustee has done and have an opportunity to challenge those actions is when the trustee provides an accounting to the beneficiary, if not it is the grounds for trust estate litigation.

As the equitable owner of the trust property, the beneficiary has a vested interest in the management and administration of the trust and has an enforceable right to an accounting from a trustee. Furthermore, because the trustee has a fiduciary obligation to the beneficiary, the beneficiary must be accurately informed as to what the trust property consists and how it is being managed. The beneficiary must be accurately informed about the administration of the trust in order to hold the trustee to the proper standard of care and honesty and to enforce his [the beneficiary’s] rights in the trust.

Trust estate litigation accountingA trustee has a duty to maintain clear, complete and accurate books and records regarding the trust administration and at reasonable intervals must provide beneficiaries with reports or accounting. It is important for the trustee to keep accurate records so that the beneficiary can tell whether the trustee has acted with prudence, loyalty, and impartiality and whether the costs of administration have been reasonable and appropriate.

To schedule an appointment with Jay Fleece:  

Phone: 727-471-5868   jfleece@legacyprotectionlawyers.com  

St. Petersburg lawyer Jay Fleece handles Litigation

St. Petersburg lawyer: Probate, Trusts, Guardianship and Fiduciary Law

This St. Petersburg Lawyer routinely deals with contested probate and trust litigation matters helping families protect their legacy.

Issues handled by St. Petersburg lawyer Jay Fleece concern the validity of wills and trusts, breach of fiduciary duty, lack of capacity, spousal rights, creditors’ rights and anything related to wills, trusts, and contested guardianships.

Areas of Litigation:

Probate courtProbate litigation encompasses all forms of contested matters arising in a probate. Some of the contested issues in Florida probate law resulting in litigation, include the validity of the decedent’s last will and testament; construing the terms of an ambiguous will; spousal share election under the elective share statute; pretermitted spouse and child issues; excessive fiduciary or attorneys’ fees; creditor claims; breach of fiduciary duty by the personal representative; improper accountings; recovery of estate assets and a plethora of other potential issues involving wills and trusts.

Trusts Litigation Many 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 family lawyer St. Petersburgtrust 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 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. Jay has handled a variety of wills and trust litigation in the courts of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and throughout Florida.

Fiduciary Litigation Fiduciary litigation usually involves actions with trustees, personal representatives and agents holding a power of attorney for a principal. A fiduciary is a position of trust held to the highest standard of care. A fiduciary has many duties including the duty of loyalty and a duty of impartiality in the administration of wills. A fiduciary is prohibited from putting his own personal interest ahead of the person to whom he owes a duty. Fiduciary litigation in Florida can also arise in many other contexts including business relationships, partnership relationships and any other manner in which a fiduciary relationship is established.


Guardianship LitigationContested Guardianship –
 St. Petersburg lawyer Jay Fleece handles all aspects of contested guardianship litigation in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Pinellas County and throughout the state of Florida. Contested guardianships are those which involve either the establishment of a guardianship or situations where the alleged incapacitated person may not, in fact, be incapacitated, or reasonable alternatives to a guardianship exist. Litigation; many cases are filed to prevent the exploitation or further exploitation of an individual, often a loved one, by someone who has taken over the financial, medical and social affairs of an individual who is incapacitated and unable to resist the undue influence of others. The Order Determining Incapacity may result in the loss of substantial Civil Rights, including the right to vote; to determine one’s own medical treatment; to handle one’s own financial affairs; to make a will, change a will, gift or disposition of property; to determine one’s own residence; and to travel unsupervised, to name but a few. The filing of a guardianship, while unfortunate, is often the only means to stop the financial exploitation and wrest control away from the exploiter, who can be a stranger, but may also be a neighbor, caregiver, friend, or even a family member.


St. Petersburg Lawyer Jay Fleece deals with litigation
In all matters, the client is and remains Legacy Protection Lawyers main concern, as the firm helps to protect the family legacy.  Aspects of litigation such as cost, emotional impact, and timeliness are all important to the client, and this St. Petersburg lawyer strives for an end result which leaves the client feeling that justice was accomplished in an efficient and effective manner. For help or answers to litigation related questions, you can contact St. Petersburg lawyer Jay Fleece at 727-471-5868jfleece@legacyprotectionlawyers.com

 

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

Jay Fleece lawyer

Joseph W. “Jay” Fleece, III

St. Petersburg lawyer, Jay Fleece, a partner with Legacy Protection Lawyers, was selected by his peers for inclusion in Best Lawyers in America 2018 in the field of Trusts and Estates Litigation. Best Litigation Lawyer Tampa Bay areaBest 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 24th 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 Jay Fleece, call (727) 471-5868, and click here for more information about Legacy Protection Lawyers.

Best Lawyers: “Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Our methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.

Best Lawyers employs a sophisticated, conscientious, rational, and transparent survey process designed to elicit meaningful and substantive evaluations of the quality of legal services. Our belief has always been that the quality of a peer review survey is directly related to the quality of the voters.”

Trust and Trustee

Trustee Responsibilities for an Estate.

Trustee: If the decedent had established what is commonly referred to as a “Revocable Trust”. to work properly, assets must be transferred to it. 

Important: Titles must be changed from an “individual” name to the name of the revocable living trust. Because the name is no longer in the titles, there is no reason for the Florida probate court to be involved. What happens 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. – Mainly for the purposes of determining federal estate tax liability.

TrustWhen a Revocable Trust is executed, the Trustee is usually the person who executed the trust.

Married couples are often co-trustees. When one dies or becomes incapacitated, the surviving spouse continues to handle the finances with no other actions required. Many people choose to be their own trustee and continue to manage their affairs for as long as they are able. However, they are 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 of the trust could appoint another person or financial institution as the Trustee of their revocable trust. If you have been named as a current Trustee or Co-trustee, you may already be acting in that capacity. So you need to be aware of your duties and responsibilities as trustee of the estate.

Trustee and Court ClerkThe Trustee is always required to file a “Notice of Trust” with the clerk of the court. It should be in the county in which the decedent resided at the time of the decedent’s death. The purpose of the notice is to make the decedent’s creditors aware of the of the trust’s existence. They have 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. They 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.

To schedule an appointment with Jay Fleece:  

Phone: 727-471-5868   jfleece@legacyprotectionlawyers.com