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When Is Fiduciary Accounting Necessary In Florida Probate Actions?


Differentiating between probate and estate terms is dizzying. Personal representative, trustee, trust account, executor, decedent, interested party and beneficiary are terms you might hear often, but what does it all mean? Is accounting necessary for all estates? If you create a trust to avoid probate, doesn’t the trustee still have to file account statements? It’s complicated to say the least, but nothing our attorneys at Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group cannot handle.

What is a Formal Statutory Trust Accounting? 

When a trust is created, a trustee is appointed to manage it. The trustee must file a yearly trust accounting and keep beneficiaries informed of updates. Beneficiaries are named as parties set to benefit from the trust proceeds either when the settlor (person who created the trust) passed away or under specific conditions named in the trust. Some beneficiaries become frustrated if they are not sure exactly what the trust contains or how investments held in the trust have grown or shrunk since the trust was formed. Other beneficiaries might have good reason to suspect a trustee of forgoing fiduciary duties or engaging in dishonest practices. While these suspicions might be unfounded, qualified beneficiaries have the right to examine a copy of the trust and to receive a yearly statutory trust accounting from the trustee. The accounting should indicate all transactions, sales, security purchases and disbursements from the trust during the previous calendar or fiscal year. It might also include a balance sheet or profit and loss statement. 

What about Estate Inventory? 

Estate inventory involves a detailed list of every item (including real property) the decedent owned prior to their passing. It also lists all debts the decedent owed and hopefully contains information for reaching and notifying potential creditors. An inventory can be simple or time consuming, it depends on how prepared someone is and whether the decedent actively engaged in estate planning prior to their death. If someone is not organized, does not keep copies of bills, receipts, or valuation of rare items, it can make filing an inventory very difficult for the personal representative.

However, it is not a step that can be skipped. An inventory must be filed with the probate court of jurisdiction and a copy must also be sent to interested persons, creditors and devisees of the estate. Interested parties include a decedent’s heirs (including extended relatives), immediate family, and friends or other parties named to a decedent’s will. An interested party might receive a copy of estate inventory even if they were not directly named as a beneficiary in the decedent’s will, simply because they share familial relationship with the decedent. 

Contact the Villages Attorneys at Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group 

Estate planning is complicated. Estate administration without prior estate planning implemented can be a major hassle. Probate is notoriously expensive and time-consuming. Procedural rules must be adhered to or probate clerks will continue to kick back documents filed incorrectly, including estate inventories. Formal trust accounts are also necessary in some limited instances. Our estate planning attorneys at Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group have experience in providing tailored, customized advice and services to all our clients. We are standing by to assist you and are only a phone call away. Call today to schedule a consultation.

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