Estate administration can refer to a trust administration, probate administration, or both if probate proceedings are required and the decedent had at least one trust that owns assets. In turn, probate administrations can be abbreviated if certain legal requirements are met (see Summary Administration). Trustees and Personal Representatives of probate estates are fiduciaries. A fiduciary has the power and obligation to act on behalf of another, is in a position of trust, and must act in good faith and honesty. Florida law and/or the relevant legal instruments such as a Trust or Will govern the duties of a fiduciary. A Trustee administers the Trust and the Personal Representative administers the probate estate.
Typically, a trust administration can be conducted without court involvement especially if there isn’t a parallel probate administration involved or if there are enough assets in the decedent’s probate estate to pay the expenses and liabilities of the estate. The court will always oversee probate and abbreviated probate proceedings. If there is no litigation, probate proceedings should not last longer than 12 months. However, a trust administration can last much longer or be much shorter depending on the terms of the Trust.
Both trust and probate administrations are concerned with the distribution of assets. Assets owned by a Trust are distributed according to the terms of the Trust and in accordance with Florida law. Assets that are subject to probate are distributed according to the terms of the Will and in accordance with Florida law. If probate is necessary and there is no Will, then Florida’s intestacy statutes provide the framework for how distributions from the decedent’s probate estate are to be made to heirs.
Throughout this website, I try to provide a brief introduction and overview of the probate process (see Steps in a Probate Administration) and some of the duties of the personal representative. It is intended to serve as a guide and is by no means exhaustive or a substitute for legal advice as such advice cannot be rendered in the absence of knowledge of the facts and the circumstances concerning your situation.