Accountings, Inventories and Financial Information
Accountings, Inventories & Financial Information for Florida Trusts & Estates: Where’s my Money?
If you are a probate beneficiary, or a beneficiary of a Florida estate or trust, you are probably wondering when are you going to get your inheritance? Well, did you know that you have rights to know what’s taking so long to get your Florida inheritance? That’s right. Florida probate lawyers can’t keep you in the dark, can’t refuse to answer your questions, or operate a trust or estate in secret. Quite the contrary.
Florida probate and trust law requires that fiduciaries like personal representatives of estates, and trustees of trusts provide interested persons and beneficiaries, even creditors of probates, with relevant information. This often includes the value of the estate or trust, any real estate, or investments, what the money is being spent on, and how much you are paying out in attorney fees, costs and compensation for trustees & executors. No hiding the ball ! No operating the trust or estate in secret! Trustees and Florida personal representatives who try to hide how much money they have taken, or what they have spent the money on, can get into a lot trouble. Just ask any probate litigator in Florida.
So, do you know HOW to ask for that “relevant information?”
Do you know the difference between an estate inventory and a trust accounting?
Do you know where to look for the money and information if it’s not forthcoming?
Do you know the difference between monthly or annual statements, versus a formal statutory trust accounting under the Florida Trust Code?
If you want to read about a trust beneficiary’s bill of rights under the Florida Trust Code, click here.
In the Florida estate context: within the first 60 days of the personal representative’s appointment, a personal representative is required to file the estate’s inventory, setting out the assets of the estate with “reasonable detail” and including each item’s estimated fair market value as of the decedent’s death. Fla. Stat. 733.604, Fla. Prob. R. 5.340. Moreover, a personal representative is required to provide an accounting of all transactions of the estate during its administration (unless the beneficiaries sign a written waiver of this requirement, see Fla. Prob. R. 5.180). A form for the accounting is actually provided in Florida Probate Rule 5.346. Both the inventory and the accounting are required to be verified (i.e., signed under oath) by the personal representative. Fla. Prob. R. 5.330.
On the trust side, a trustee is required to perform annual accountings of the trust, setting out all assets and liabilities of the trust. Indeed, a beneficiary has a right to be reasonably informed of the trust and its administration by the trustee. The beneficiary is entitled to a complete copy of the trust as well as relevant information regarding the assets and liabilities of a trust and the particulars relating the trust administration. Fla. Stat. 736.0813. Moreover, beneficiaries have a right to accountings of the trust. Typically, trust accountings contain “limitation” language like that set out in Fla. Stat. 736.1008. This language explains that an action against a trustee by a beneficiary, regarding any matter set out in the trust disclosure document (typically an accounting, but financial statements, written reports, and other trust-related documents may also meet this definition), may be barred unless the action is commenced within 6 months after receipt of the trust disclosure document. Fla. Stat. 736.1008(4)(c).