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Richard, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 53721
Experience:  29 years of experience practicing law, including tax and estate planning.
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My parents, who lived (and died) in Florida, established a

Customer Question

My parents, who lived (and died) in Florida, established a Revocable Family Trust many years ago. I do not have a copy of the trust, but it had come up in family discussions several times before my father passed away in 2007. In 2008, there is a public record of deed transfer into the trust, so I do know the name of the law firm that made those changes and has knowledge of the trust. According to descriptions of the trust in previous conversations, it sounded like an A/B trust, where part of it would become irrevocable upon his death, and while he was alive, it would take consent of both parties to change it. That part of the trust was investments to provide income to my mother while she lived, then to be divided equally between the surviving children. The survivors are myself and my sister, who he indicated would be the Successor Trustee. I have no reason to suspect that any change to beneficiaries occurred in the B part of the trust before he died, since he always voiced concern over passing on his assets to his children, with no chance of his assets being diverted elsewhere should our mother remarry or have a change of heart later. The other part of the trust would remain revocable at our mother’s discretion until her death, and was intended to provide for surviving grandchildren. She died May 20, 2016. My sister, who I believe is the Successor Trustee, has not spoken to me since before our mother’s death and will not return my calls or give me any information.
Everything I have found out is from Florida public record searches. From what I have read of the Florida Statute, Florida Trust Code(###) ###-#### the Successor Trustee shall: “Within 60 days after the date the trustee acquires knowledge of the creation of an irrevocable trust, or the date the trustee acquires knowledge that a formerly revocable trust has become irrevocable, whether by the death of the settlor or otherwise, the trustee shall give notice to the qualified beneficiaries of the trust’s existence, the identity of the settlor or settlors, the right to request a copy of the trust instrument, the right to accountings under this section, and that the fiduciary lawyer-client privilege in s. 90.5021 applies with respect to the trustee and any attorney employed by the trustee.”
It has been more than 60 days, and neither I (nor my daughter) have received any such notification. Another public record search indicates that a Will was registered with the probate court on June 15, 2016 and the status is “complete” and “closed”. Again, I have not seen the will, but I assume my sister was also the Personal Representative and it was a Pour Over Will, adding all remaining assets to the family trust. So far, I have not been able to find any publication of a Notice to Creditors anywhere in Florida.
Understandably, I am concerned over the secrecy, avoidance, and the inability to get any information about the settlement of my parent’s estate. Are there exceptions to the 60 day notification period? Can I find out if my sister is the Successor Trustee and if I and/or my daughter are beneficiaries? I live in Colorado. Can a local attorney help me or must it be a Florida lawyer? Any advice on how to proceed is greatly appreciated.
Submitted: 2 months ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  Richard replied 2 months ago.

Hi! My name is ***** ***** I will be helping you today! It will take me just a few minutes to type a response to your question. Thanks for your patience!

Expert:  Richard replied 2 months ago.

You absolutely have recourse here. Whether there is a trust or a will (that possibly pours over into the trust), the assets are not your sister's personal piggy bank. Whether executor or trustee, she has a fiduciary duty to each beneficiary. Each beneficiary is entitled to have the fiduciary timely administer the estate specifically pursuant to the terms of the document, to have the fiduciary provide a copy of the full inventory of assets and periodic accounting of every dime in and out of the estate/trust. Unless there is a particular situation complicating the administration, the administration of an estate would not take over 1 year to administrate and usually only 6-9 months. If she fails to produce the inventory, periodic accounting, or fails to timely administer the estate specifically in accordance to the document, which she has clearly failed to do so far by failing to comply with the 60 day notice period,, you can file a petition with the probate court to have her removed for breach of fiduciary duty. And, if an accounting, which the court will order if she has not provided one, shows there to be any misappropriation of assets or funds, you can also ask the court to award actual and punitive damages against the her. In your situation, I would put her on written notice by certified letter of the foregoing and let her know is she does not satisfy his fiduciary duty to you as a beneficiary in the administration of the estate/trust,, including keeping you informed of the progress, you will be filing the petition with the court to have her removed and be asking the court to order an audit of the estate. Only if the letter does not produce the desired results would you need to engage an attorney. At that point, you would want to engage a Florida lawyer.

Under my terms of service with JustAnswer, I'm not allowed to make a specific recommendation, but I can give you direction. You would want to either contact the Florida state bar association or a Florida law school for a referral. I prefer the latter because they take great pride in their graduates and will take a more personal interest in making sure your referral is a good one because it will be a reflection of the school.

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