In many probate administrations, the beneficiaries will be asked to sign a waiver of accounting, so as to release the personal representative of the estate from having to account to the beneficiaries. Should you sign the waiver of accounting in a Florida Probate?
What is a Final Accounting in a Florida Probate?
A Final Accounting is filed in a Florida Probate when the personal representative has fully administered the estate and is ready to make final distributions and close the estate.
Florida Probate Rule 5.400, entitled “Distribution and Discharge,” requires that the personal representative “file a final accounting and a petition for discharge including a plan of distribution.”
Probate Rule 5.346, entitled “Fiduciary Accounting,” sets forth the information required to be disclosed in a fiduciary accounting.
Accounting Standards. The following standards are required for the accounting of all transactions occurring on or after January 1, 1994:(1) Accountings shall be stated in a manner that is understandable to persons who are not familiar with practices and terminology peculiar to the administration of estates and trusts.
(2) The accounting shall begin with a concise summary of its purpose and content.
(3) The accounting shall contain sufficient information to put interested persons on notice as to all significant transactions affecting administration during the accounting period.
(4) The accounting shall contain 2 values in the schedule of assets at the end of the accounting period, the asset acquisition value or carrying value, and estimated current value.
(5) Gains and losses incurred during the accounting period shall be shown separately in the same schedule.
(6) The accounting shall show significant transactions that do not affect the amount for which the fiduciary is accountable.
The Florida Probate Rules provide a model format for accountings so that the accountings are consistent and understandable.
Upon receipt of an accounting, an interested person has 30 days of service of the accounting to object to the accounting. The objection must be in writing and served on the personal representative and interested persons within 30 days of service.
Should I Sign a Waiver of Accounting In A Florida Probate?
Accountings can be expensive and time consuming to prepare. The estate cannot be closed until the time for objecting has expired. Therefore, if waivers are not signed, everyone is forced to wait until an objection is filed or until the time to object has come and gone.
In many estates, the personal representative will ask the beneficiaries to waive the requirement for an accounting.
In many Florida estates, it makes sense to waive the accounting. This is because the personal representative has already provided most, if not all, of the information that would constitute an accounting, such as bank and brokerage statements. In such cases, the information has already been provided, making an accounting unnecessary. Also, Florida Probate Rule 5.341 requires that a personal representative provide any information regarding an estate to a beneficiary who requests the information.
So, between bank statements and answers to some questions about the administration of an estate, many interested persons will have been provided all of the information necessary to evaluate whether or not to waive the requirement of a formal accounting.
In complex estates, however, and in estates where the personal representative has been less than forthcoming about information, the formality of a final accounting may be desired. If there are disputes about how an estate has been administered, it may be a bad idea to waive an accounting.