The Estate account is about to close and I was told that there was around 56k in the account but it was going to be dispersed to creditors. I know the creditors have already been paid. We submited the proper advertisement in probate and it has been since June so it is passed the three months required. I am concerned that I am now being told that there will be no residual of the Estate. How do I protect myself?
Estate Planning Attorney
As a residual beneficiary, you are entitled to an accounting by the personal representative administering the estate. If that person is advising you there were creditors, you should ask to see the creditors' claims filed in the court file within the statutory time period so you can see for yourself whether the amount of those claims exceeds the value of the assets. Keep in mind that a personal representative, and the estate attorney, must also be paid. A personal representative is entitled to three percent commission on the value of estate assets listed in the inventory, taxes must be paid, and the attorney doing the work for the estate must also be paid. In any event, you are entitled to a Final Accounting, which will show exactly who is being paid what amount, which creditors are paid and how much, and how your share of the estate was determined. You have a right to a hearing on the amount of attorney's fees being charged, though having such a hearing may cost more money because it requires more attorney time, etc. You should consider investing in an office conference with an attorney, who can inquire of the attorney handling the estate, and review your copies of the pleadings filed in the probate file, and better advise you of what you can expect. If I were you, I would ask for the above information from the estate attorney, and ask what they propose to charge for fees, who agreed to the amount of the fees, and whether the personal representative is requesting a fee. There are possibly claims properly filed by unpaid creditors who will have to be paid before any distribution can be made to a residuary beneficiary. Ask. If you don't get answers, you will eventually get a Final Accounting sent to you, and if you find it irregular or deficient, you can file an objection to the accounting and request a hearing on it before the assigned judge. I think you will find that when you have all the facts, chances are the money is, in fact, being spent on decedent's bills, taxes, and costs of administration, like attorney's fees and personal representatives fees, plus filing fees and operating expenses such as postage, etc.
This answer is offered by a member of the Fla. Bar, and the response is based solely upon the factual scenario framed by the inquiry in the question. Such questions often omit important facts which could dramatically affect the answer the responding attorney would provide, had additional facts and further information been made available by the writer of the question. It is always advisable to engage in a more thorough, conference type of setting when seeking definitive legal advice as it is impossible for any attorney to fully address all of the possible issues, or to outline all possible defenses, or fully explore all angles of a legal question in this limited format setting. This attorney's response to the question in no way creates an attorney-client relationship with the writer of the initial question.
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In addition to an initial inventory, the personal representative should file a statement regarding creditors. Further, you should be able to view items in the court docket (Statement of Claim/Satisfaction of Claim) that indicate the status of a creditor's claim. Last, prior to closing the estate, the personal representative will file (and provide you with a copy of) the Petition for Discharge and Final Accounting, by which you can see what's gone on financially.
I recommend a consultation with an attorney to help you understand the process and how to monitor the probate administration. It shouldn't cost more than approximate $250, and I think you'll appreciate the information you would receive from a competent attorney.
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