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Is it customary to sign for receipt of complete distribution of my share of stepmom's estate prior to actually receiving?

Palmetto, FL |

I received Waiver of Accounting and Service of Petition for Discharge, Receipt of Beneficiary and Consent to Discharge from the attorney representing my stepmom's estate in the state of Florida. My sister, PR, did not do a final accounting, so I am signing that I do not require one. Also, I am agreeing to the amount and manner of determining the compensation for the PR and the attorney. AND FINALLY, I am acknowledgiing receipt of complete distribution of the share of the estate to which the undersigned was entitled, releases the personal representative from all further liability in connection with the estate, and consents to the entry of an order discharging the PR without notice, hearing, or waiting period, and without further accounting. Should I sign without 1st receiving funds?

Attorney Answers 6

Posted

The cover letter from the attorney should have stated the funds will be distributed to you upon the attorney's receipt of the Waiver. Additionally you should have received an informal accounting showing the funds received and spent by the Personal Representative during the administration of the estate, and a proposed schedule of distribution to the heirs or beneficiaries. So long as you have received all of this information and any other information that you require to feel comfortable signing the form, then it is permissible to sign and return the form to the attorney. If you have any doubts or questions that remain unanswered, do not sign the form and obtain independent legal advice at once.

Answers to questions on this site are not intended to be specific legal advice nor create an attorney-client relationship. Hiring an attorney is a very important process which requires a high degree of diligence as well as entering into an agreement regarding the services to be provided and the fees to be charged.

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Posted

As crazy as it sounds, it is customary. Attorneys want to make sure they get that receipt, so they ask you to sign it before you get your money. I don't practice that way anymore because I wouldn't want to sign a receipt before I got the money.

You should not waive a final accounting unless you are comfortable with doing that. If you are comfortable, then please sign the waiver because an accounting is a lot of work.

The contents of this answer should be considered friendly advice, not legal advice and the answer should not be construed to constitute an attorney-client relationship. If you'd like actual legal advice, call me at 954-567-4100. Also, if you liked this answer did, be sure to click the thumbs-up button

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Posted

The forms you were sent are not uncommon in a probate proceeding. You should have received a copy of the Will and an inventory of the estate assets. You should also have been kept, relativity, up to date regarding the proceedings and therefore you should have a good understanding of what remains in the estate.
The Petition for Discharge allows the estate to be closed. Your sister signed an agreement with the attorney for representation which should have included a fee agreement. Many attorneys and PRs follow the FL Statutes regarding compensation. If you don't already know how much each is being compensated, just ask. If they followed the statues the fees should be considered reasonable.
Many attorneys will request that you waive a full accounting of the estate to save on cost and time. If you have questions or concerns, you can call your sister or the attorney to get a verbal accounting. For example, your sister or the attorney should be able to tell you that the estate started with X, less creditors and expenses of Y, so you will be getting Z.
Many attorneys wait until the estate is closed before making a final distribution to account for unexpected issues.
Keep in mind that if you request an accounting, object to compensation, request a hearing, or anything of the like, it will cost the estate money. If you hire an attorney, it will come out of your pocket unless the court orders compensation from the estate.
As I stated earlier, the attorney or the PR should be able to answer your questions verbally. If you are satisfied by their answers, sign the documents. If you still have questions, you can hire your own attorney and you can request an accounting.
You can call my office if you would like 727-822-8987.

This answer is provided for informational purposes only, does not constitute legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Florida Attorney practicing in areas of Estate Planning, Elder Law, Trusts, Probate, Guardianship, and Business Law. www.ferraezlucas.com The information provided is for educational purposes and not intended to provide legal advice or to create an attorney client relationship. Please contact me at adam@yourlawpro.com or call my office should you like to discuss your Florida legal matter further. Actual legal advice can only be provided after completing a comprehensive consultation in which all of the relevant facts are discussed and reviewed.

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1 comment

M Daniel Sasso

M Daniel Sasso

Posted

At least 50% of the probates I handle are left to the trustee as sole beneficiary and only in recent years did the law require notification and waivers of the multiple "qualified beneficiaries" of the trust. Perhaps you fall in the latter category and are a trust beneficiary, and if so then it is mere formality to get a formal notice to you with the accounting, however it is the Personal Representative duty to prepare the accounting and not her legal counsel, unless she/he decides to also retain counsel and or an accountant to do the same. Unfortunately many children are left to function in the role of the Personal Representative and although unfamiliar with accountings will not let counsel prepare the same, hence leading to much greater expense than required. Very often I as counsel am lead to believe that the beneficiaries are all comfortable with their sister/brother serving and would not challenge them; you could of course hold out for a formal accounting. Note that in some states, such as NJ and others the costs are very high for this, but in Florida, in a moderate sized estate the Clerk doesn't take an audit fee for the same. Hope this helps some.

Posted

Sending the Waiver prior to the funds is common practice, however I would inquire about a informal accounting, the amount of your share and when it will be sent. You typically would recieve this information along with the Waiver. As a beneficiary you are entitled to request an actual formal accounting and not at all required to sign such Waiver.

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Posted

Waivers are executed to expedite the probate process. Ask for a copy of the distribution check before signing. Creditors, the Personal Representative and the Personal Representative’s attorney are paid first.

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Posted

Yes it is fairly common to sign sign these documents before you receive a distribution. If you believe there has been something done incorrectly or the numbers don't appear to add up based upon what the attorney has explained to you, then I would probably hold off on signing these important documents until you receive more information. The personal representative is under a fiduciary obligation to make the distribution to the beneficiaries and failing to do so can have serious repercussions.

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