HOW WILL I KNOW IF I AM A BENEFICIARY OF A DECEDENT?
Pursuant to Florida Statutes, if you were named as a beneficiary of a decedent, the personal representative of the estate would notify you by serving you with a copy of the Notice of Administration of the estate of the decedent. Pursuant to Florida Statue 733.212, the personal representative shall promptly serve a copy of the notice of administration on the following persons who are known to the personal representative, such as the decedent’s surviving spouse, beneficiaries, the trustee of any trust and each qualified beneficiary of the trust, persons who may be entitled to exempt property, and interested persons. Florida Statute 731.201(23) defines an interested person as “any person who may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the particular proceeding involved. Under Florida Statute 731.201(2), a beneficiary means an heir at law in an intestate estate (estate without a Will) and devisee in a testate estate (estate with a Will).
Is there anything you could do if you received no Notice of Administration after the demise of someone you believed to have named you as an heir? Discussing the matter with a competent estate planning attorney is important, because it may be necessary for them to file a Petition for Determination of Beneficiaries in order to determine if you were named as a beneficiary of the decedent.
Under Florida Statute 733.105, the determination of beneficiaries is made:
“ (1) when property passes by intestate succession or the will is unclear and there is doubt about:
(a) Who is entitled to receive any part of the property, or
(b) The shares and amounts that any person is entitled to receive, any interested person may petition the court to determine beneficiaries or their shares.
(2) Any personal representative who makes distribution or takes any other action pursuant to an order determining beneficiaries shall be fully protected.
(3) A separate civil action to determine beneficiaries may be brought when an estate has not been administered.”
What if you were named a beneficiary of the decedent’s Trust? Florida Statute 736.0103(4) describes a beneficiary as “a person who has a present or future beneficial interest in a trust, vested or contingent, or who holds a power of appointment over trust property in a capacity other than of trustee. An interest as a permissible appointee of a power of appointment, held by a person in a capacity other than of trustee, is not a beneficial interest for purposes of this subsection. Upon an irrevocable exercise of a power of appointment, the interest of a person in whose favor the appointment is made shall be considered a present or future beneficial interest in a trust in the same manner as if the interest had been included in the trust instrument.”
How would I find out if I was the beneficiary of the decedent’s Trust? Pursuant to Florida Statue 736.05055, upon the death of a settlor of a trust, the trustee must file a notice of trust with the Court in the county of the settlor’s domicile and the Court having jurisdiction of the settlor’s estate. The personal representative of the decedent’s estate has a duty to notify each qualified beneficiary of the trust as outlined in Florida Statute 731.201. Also, the named trustee of a trust has specific fiduciary duties and obligations to the beneficiaries of a trust, and it is imperative that the beneficiary retain skilled and competent counsel to discuss their rights as the beneficiary of a trust to ensure that the beneficiary receives the appropriate distributions according to the language of the trust.