Whether it’s summary administration or formal administration, the experienced Fort Lauderdale estate administration lawyers at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates are here to help with all aspects of probating the estate of a loved one. Estate administration involves the personal representative, appointed by the Florida circuit court, managing a variety of tasks, including inventorying and appraising probate assets, resolving creditor claims, managing probate property, winding up the decedent’s businesses or arranging for an orderly business succession, and distributing probate assets to beneficiaries or heirs. We can also represent the estate or heirs and beneficiaries in the resolution of will contests or other probate disputesResponsibilities of the Personal Representative
Take control of probate assets. The personal representative, sometimes referred to as the executor or estate administrator, must determine the assets that are part of the decedent’s probate estate and take control of them. This might mean retrieving assets from friends and family. It may also mean taking control over financial accounts. When the court formally appoints the personal representative, she (or he) is given Letters of Administration that gives her the legal authority to take control of and make decisions related to estate assets. For example, with the Letters, the personal representative can access the decedent’s bank account and perform transactions.
Estate assets may include real estate such as the decedent’s house or condo. It also may include financial assets such as savings accounts, checking accounts, or investment accounts. Estate property will include the decedent’s personal property such as clothing, jewelry, accessories, and home furnishings, as well as collectibles such as artwork.
As a Fort Lauderdale estate administration lawyer will explain, not all property owned by the decedent is probate property subject to the court supervised estate administration process. Some assets such as retirement accounts, life insurance, and asset in a trust are not probate assets and will pass to beneficiaries outside of the probate process. Similarly, real estate that is co-owned with others as joint tenants with survivorship rights is not probate property.
- Pay estate debts. The personal representative is responsible for paying estate debts, paying expenses related to administration, and settling claims. Making sure all debts and claims that have been timely submitted is extremely important to the probate administration process. Probate assets cannot be distributed until debts are paid. In addition, the executor must pay taxes owed by the decedent or by the estate. If the estate is involved in litigation such as a will contest, expenses related to defending the will contest will be paid out of estate assets.
- Distributing estate assets. One of the final steps in the estate administration process is distributing assets. If there is a will, then the will should include clear instructions as to how probate assets should be distributed. In the absence of a will, the personal representative must base asset distribution on the rules of intestate succession.
In addition to standard estate administration activities, the administrator may be required to address other, more challenging issues including:
- Estate litigation. Estate litigation may be based on a will contest, disputes among beneficiaries, or other claims against the decedent such as a personal injury or contract claim.
- Tax proceedings. If there is a dispute related to taxes owed, the personal must settle the issue.
- Decedent’s business. If the decedent was an entrepreneur and ran his or her own business, the personal representative may be tasked with continuing to run the business for a time, selling the business, or managing a succession plan.
As an experienced estate administration attorney in Fort Lauderdale special issues that need to be addressed by the personal representative may impact the process. They may extend the length of the administration process and they may result in added expense to the estate.Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates
Estate administration is sometimes routine, but can also become quite complicated depending on the size of the estate and any unexpected events that develop in the process such as a will contest, tax problem, complex claims against the estate, or some other type of estate litigation. An experienced estate administration attorney serving Fort Lauderdale will help you through the administration process as quickly as possible under the circumstances. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has extensive estate administration experience. Contact us attorneys at 561-710-4000 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case.