Settling The Estate: What You Should Know To Begin The Process

"Settling the estate" refers to handling the transfer of a decedent's assets such as life insurance, annuities, qualified plans and trust assets.

We have served families in southwest Florida and throughout the state for almost 40 years. If you have any questions about this overview of what goes into the settling of an estate, we are glad to answer them during your free initial consultation at our law offices.

Your Estate Lawyer's Function

We assist the personal representative of the estate in the gathering, valuation, accounting and distribution of the decedent's assets. We prepare federal and state estate tax returns as well as the appropriate documents to release liens on a decedent's real estate. It is our responsibility to ensure that all steps are properly taken to carry out the decedent's intent in accordance with the law.

We often do primary and ancillary probate services for out-of-state clients with property in Florida.

Your Immediate Concerns

Important documents belonging to the decedent should be located. These include the last will or trust, bank account records, deeds, brokerage account records and last year's tax return, among others.

A funeral director can notify the Social Security Administration of the decedent's death. If not, the estate administrator should do so.

There are two types of administrators in Florida. Trustees manage trust assets. Probate estates are administered by a personal representative. All administrators are empowered to hire attorneys, accountants, appraisers and other professionals to assist them, and they are paid from the estate assets. Administrators are entitled to a fee for services rendered, owe a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries and are personally liable if they breach that duty.

The Decedent's Assets

The types of assets needed to expedite distribution differ according to how they were owned. They are considered solely owned, held in the decedent's trust, jointly owned or assets where a beneficiary is named.

Any safety deposit box used by the decent should also be located. Many times, the most important documents are stored there.

As your legal adviser for this process, we will review any will or trust the decedent left, review the inventory of assets and creditors and advise you on the necessary legal proceedings to transfer the decedent's assets to the beneficiaries. We will also inform you of the costs, fees and time expected to conclude the proceedings.

The Settlement Process

The surviving spouse or adult beneficiaries should be able to settle the estate without much difficulty. Assets owned jointly or with a beneficiary designation are not subject to probate or trust administration.

Other important financial considerations in settling an estate are life insurance policy and annuity contracts, out-of-state assets, the roles of creditors and rights of a surviving spouse, if any.

We will be glad to tackle any of these topics in depth during your free initial consultation at our Cape Coral law offices.

Contact Our Law Offices Today

We look forward to meeting you and discussing your estate planning priorities during your free initial consultation at our law offices in Cape Coral. For almost 40 years, we have counseled Floridians on how to settle estates. We can help you, too. Contact us by phone, fax or email today. We return after-hours communications promptly and offer Spanish interpretation for those who need it.