The successor Trustee has both general and Florida statutory duties that should be performed to properly administer the Trust estate after the original creator(s) of the Trust are deceased. First, the successor Trustee must formally accept the position and send certain notifications to the qualified beneficiaries.
The successor Trustee will review the Trust document and determine how the creator(s) of the Trust wanted his or her assets to be administered. There are various documents that must be filed with the County and the Trustee must apply for a federal tax ID number to replace the Trustor’s social security number on all Trust assets.
The Trustee will identify and locate all assets and verify they are properly titled to the Trust. If any asset was left out of the Trust and titled in the Trustor’s name only, a probate proceeding will need to be opened. The Trustee will also need to review any and all debts and claims and settle them accordingly. Once that is done, the Trustee may decide to make a partial distribution to the beneficiaries, retaining the funds they feel necessary for fees, taxes and other expenses of administration.
The Trustee will be responsible for ensuring any and all of the decedent’s individual and estate tax returns are filed. If an estate exceeds the unified credit/applicable credit amount ($11,700,000 for 2021, inheritance taxes will need to be paid in addition to income taxes. Once all necessary filings have been made, all debts, claims and outstanding fees have been addressed, the Trustee may make final distribution of the assets.
It should be noted that probate will always be available as a safety-net if the Trust or other estate planning instruments fail for one reason or another. The probate court is a place of last resort; it will be there to supervise and resolve any disputes.