Objecting to a Final Accounting
An estate’s personal representative has many duties, including safekeeping estate assets and paying valid claims made on the estate. Before an estate can be closed, the personal representative needs to provide a “final accounting.” Essentially, this is a disclosure of all the transactions of the probated estate. Interested persons, including heirs and beneficiaries, must have an opportunity to review.
If you want to object to the final accounting, you should hire an experienced probate attorney in The Villages. There are strict deadlines to meet and making an objection in the proper form is critical.
Final Accounting Rules
Florida Probate Rule 5.400 gives the timeline for filing the petition for discharge and final accounting—no later than 12 months from the day the court issued letters of administration. However, the court can extend this time, if the estate is complex or large.
Florida Probate Rule 5.346 states what must be included in the final accounting, including all cash and property transactions, as well as a schedule of assets. In other words, there should be information about claims paid to creditors, as well as any debts collected.
Accountings are usually confidential. However, Fla. Stat. § 733.604(1)(a)(4) states that the accounting must be shared with certain people (included interested persons) if requested. Heirs and beneficiaries should receive a final accounting from the personal representative or his or her attorney. If not, they should request a copy from the court clerk.
Reasons to Object
As you work down through the transactions made, you might be confused, or you might identify transactions that you think are illegitimate. For example, you might see that the personal representative engaged in self-dealing by taking a loan from the estate or buying estate property at a discount.
You might also object to the fees that the personal representative is charging. Florida has statutory guidelines for fees, though a personal rep might be entitled to more if the estate is complex. When the representative takes a fee that seems excessive, you might object.
Ideally, an heir or beneficiary will meet with an attorney to review the accounting. Some are written in ways that are deliberately confusing, but an experienced eye can untangle the mess.
Objecting to the Final Accounting
Interested persons do not have an indefinite amount of time to object. Instead, Florida Probate Rule 5.401 gives them only 30 days.
To object, a person must do more than simply issue a blanket objection. Ideally, an interested person will identify the particular transaction they disapprove of and begin collecting evidence in support of their position.
For example, if you think that a personal representative sold estate assets at too low of a price, you need proof of what the fair value would be. This could require consulting an appraiser or other professional.
Any objection must be filed in the correct probate court and served on the personal representative, who has a chance to answer the charges. Your attorney should also schedule a hearing on this issue.
Let Us Help
Objecting to a final accounting is complicated. A judge is more likely to agree with your argument if you have obtained relevant evidence. This is why an attorney is helpful.
Contact Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group today for a free consultation. You can contact us by calling 800-743-9732.