Probate Law

How Are a Revocable Trust and Summary Administration Related?

Losing a loved one is a distressing, emotional event in and of itself.  Having to handle all of the logistics surrounding the death of a loved one can be even more jarring.  When it comes to the probate of a will, and the probate court proceeding, the level of frustration with the process may end up compounding the negative feelings around the whole process.  

That is why avoiding probate is something that people try to do all the time.  We have many clients who are looking ahead and want to keep their family members from having to encounter the slow-moving train that is the probate process.

And, interestingly, that is precisely what relates the two seemingly unrelated concepts in the title of today’s article.  Both a revocable trust and a summary administration are the two alternatives to formal administration probate.

If, after reading this article, you want to learn more about these alternatives, then we invite you to contact our professionals at Doane & Doane.  We focus on Palm Beach probate cases as one of our areas of specialization and we can help you take care of your Palm Beach probate matter. Call us today at 561-656-0200.

Why Is Probate Worth Avoiding?

Ideally, the court system should work diligently to review the relevant information in a probate, and distribute a deceased’s assets according to Florida law.  However, things are not always ideal.  

In fact, there are four major frustrations with the current probate administration process.  They are time, expense, control, and privacy.

With regard to time, any court proceeding takes an enormous amount of time.  Clogged court dockets are hard to move, and the court needs to address every wrinkle in every case.  So, there can be a lot of time not knowing how things will end up, and a long time before beneficiaries can receive the assets of a decedent’s estate.  In fact, probate can take anywhere from six months to two years.

With regard to expense.  All the fees associated with probate from filing fees to personal representative’s fees, add up.  And then there are attorney’s fees. It is possible that the results of a lifetime of work can be sharply reduced by just trying to administer the decedent’s assets.

With regard to control.  Even though there is a will, and a personal representative of the estate, most major decisions need to be signed-off by the court.  So, a deceased’s family loses considerable control once the probate process begins.  

Finally, with regard to privacy, a will in probate becomes public record.  If you worry about the information in a family will going public, the probate process is something to worry about.  

With all of those hurdles, it is clear that avoiding formal probate is worth considering.  

So, under Florida law, a “summary administration” process and a revocable, or “living,” trust are two ways to avoid having your will go into probate.  Here is how they work.  

Summary Administration

A summary administration is normally a single-day process that makes probate less costly and time consuming.     

To be eligible for a summary administration under Florida law, one of two things must be present:

1. The value of the decedent’s entire estate up for probate is $75,000 or less
2. 
The decedent must have been dead for more than two years.

A Florida summary administration starts with a petition in court, like a formal administration, but if one of the two criteria above are met, then the court orders immediate distribution of the assets.

It is important to note, however, that if the decedent has a will, then that would take it out of the summary administration process and put it back in the formal probate process.

The Revocable, or “Living” Trust

A revocable trust is something that allows you to (i) manage your assets during your lifetime, and (ii) distribute the remaining assets after your death.  The creator of a revocable trust is called the “grantor,” and the person responsible for managing the trust’s assets is called the “trustee.” 

“Revocable” means that you can change or terminate the trust at any time during your lifetime, as long as you the capacity to do so.  If you become incapacitated during your life, the trustee has the authority to continue to manage the trust assets, pay bills, and make investment decisions on behalf of the trust.  

A revocable trust is good for avoiding the probate process because you, as grantor, transfer the assets you own into the trust.  Thus, when you die, the assets in the trust are not technically owned by you. Rather, those assets you transferred into the trust are owned by the trust.  So, you technically have no assets to deal with in probate – provided that you put all of your assets in the trust.   

Tax issues will come into play when you fund the trust.  So, you would be wise to speak with a Palm Beach probate attorney when it comes to trust ownership.  

Doane & Doane Can Help You Understand Your Options In Lieu of Probate

Whether it is assistance to administer an estate, or assist an appointed personal representative, you should engage the help of the Palm Beach probate attorneys at Doane & Doane.  

Florida fiduciaries seek the assistance of the attorneys of Doane & Doane, P.A. to administer and manage their trusts and estates frequently.  The founding partners of Doane & Doane are board certified West Palm Beach Probate Attorneys.  With the additional advantage of certified public accountancy in their backgrounds, they present a unique combination of skills and experience which enables them to effectively settle, administer, and manage clients’ trusts and estates.

Overseeing an estate can be a time-consuming and complicated process. We help clients every step of the way. Our probate administrative services include:
1. Proving in court that a deceased person’s will is valid
2.
Identifying and inventorying the deceased person’s property
3. Property appraisal
4. Supervising and arranging the estate’s debts and taxes
5. Distributing property as directed by a will
6. Transferring title and ownership of assets to the proper beneficiaries

In addition, the personal representative, executor, or executrix must follow Florida law to conclude the decedent’s affairs, including:
1. Giving the proper notices to proper parties
2. Collecting the decedent’s property
3. Receiving claims against the estate
4. Paying valid claims and disputing others
5. Distributing estate property according to the will or state law
6. Selling estate property to cover debts or allow for proper distribution, if necessary

Let us at Doane & Doane help serve as a personal representative.  Contact a Doane & Doane professional today by calling 561-656-0200.