My sister is not giving me my share of my mother’s estate – what do I do?
It depends on why you’re not getting your share. Is it too early? Florida law provides the duties and powers of a personal representative commence upon appointment. The personal representative is under a duty to marshall, settle and distribute the assets of the decedent in accordance with the terms of the decedent’s Last Will and Testament and Florida law as expeditiously and efficiently as is consistent with the best interests of the estate.
What does that mean? Well, it’s a case-by-case basis because no two estates are alike; however, the law requires certain action by the executor, designed to keep all beneficiaries informed and the process honest. For example, within 60 days of being appointed executor, the law requires that an inventory of the probate assets be filed with the court and served on all interested persons. The inventory is supposed to include reasonable detail and estimated fair market value at the date of the decedent’s death. Be careful not to confuse “probate estate” with “gross estate.” The probate estate means the property of a decedent that is subject to administration by the courts. For example, a mother dies with $10 million dollars – $1 million in an account in her individual name and $9 million in a joint account. The “gross” estate is $10 million dollars, but the “probate” estate is only $1 million dollars.
So it may be that you’re not getting your share of your mother’s estate because administration takes time, because of the way the assets were owned at the time your mother died, or because your sister may be characterizing estate assets in a manner favorable to her and not to you. That is why beneficiaries sometimes hire lawyers to monitor the court proceedings and to make sure an executor is doing his or her job competently and honestly.