Help with Sister's Estate

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OldTimer
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Help with Sister's Estate

Post by OldTimer »

In the past I have always received great info from fellow Bogleheads.

Thanks in advance.

My sister passed away in Florida this past December 2018.

I live in Colorado. She left no will, trust, etc.

I am her only relative, no other siblings, no parents, never married, no kids.

Started Probate in December, attorney said the process will take 6 to 12 months.

I may be named her Personal Representative by April 15th, maybe not.

Her income should be less than $20,000, but the banks will not tell me anything until I am named her Personal Representative.

Seems to me that no one will file her taxes, the attorney says I have no authority to file her taxes for her.

I guess I just wait? Any comments?
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dm200
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by dm200 »

OldTimer wrote: Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:03 am In the past I have always received great info from fellow Bogleheads.
Thanks in advance.
My sister passed away in Florida this past December 2018.
I live in Colorado. She left no will, trust, etc.
I am her only relative, no other siblings, no parents, never married, no kids.
Started Probate in December, attorney said the process will take 6 to 12 months.
I may be named her Personal Representative by April 15th, maybe not.
Her income should be less than $20,000, but the banks will not tell me anything until I am named her Personal Representative.
Seems to me that no one will file her taxes, the attorney says I have no authority to file her taxes for her.
I guess I just wait? Any comments?
I would find out what (and why) an attorney is needed for the various steps and what you can do yourself.
Gill
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by Gill »

Why is it expected to take so long for you to be appointed personal representative? My experience in Florida where I've probated hundreds of wills is usually a matter of days once the petition for probate is filed. There is absolutely no reason it should take from December to April. Is the attorney one who normally administers estates?

Also, yes, you should file a tax return for her and you can sign it as person in possession of the decedent's property. Do you have any idea of the assets? I'm wondering if probate is necessary at all. If you don't have the information for the tax return apply for an extension and pay nothing with it.

Who has your sister's financial records? As the apparent personal representative and only beneficiary you certainly have the right to review this material for some idea of the assets and whether a formal administration of the estate is needed.
Gill
Last edited by Gill on Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:23 am, edited 5 times in total.
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senex
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by senex »

dm200 wrote: Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:05 am Seems to me that no one will file her taxes, the attorney says I have no authority to file her taxes for her.
I guess I just wait? Any comments?
The IRS offers an automatic 6-month extension for filing taxes (i.e. until Oct 15) if you file Form 4868 before April 15.

Form 4868 does not require a signature, so perhaps (I'm not a lawyer/accountant) you can legally file it on her behalf. It requires you to estimate how much tax will be due; you'll need to take your best guess using the info you have.

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4868.pdf
bsteiner
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by bsteiner »

Gill wrote: Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:14 am Why is it expected to take so long for you to be appointed personal representative? My experience in Florida where I've probated hundreds of wills is usually a matter of days once the petition for probate is filed. There is absolutely no reason it should take from December to April. Is the attorney one who normally administers estates?

Also, yes, you should file a tax return for her and you can sign it as person in possession of the decedent's property. Do you have any idea of the assets? I'm wondering if probate is necessary at all. If you don't have the information for the tax return apply for an extension and pay nothing with it.
...
We probate lots of Wills throughout Florida. It's relatively simple. The papers are filed electronically.

Of course, in this case, since there's no Will, the original poster can't probate the Will. But the procedure is similar for an intestate administration in Florida.

How long it takes for the court to issue letters of administration varies from county to county. We had one in Flagler County (a small county of about 110,000 people) where the court issued letters of administration the day after they received the papers. It can take a few weeks in some of the larger counties.

I agree to put the return on extension.
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by InMyDreams »

OldTimer wrote: Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:03 am
Her income should be less than $20,000
With the standard deduction now $12K ($13.3 if she was 65+), she won't owe much anyway. Have you been able to access any of her papers to know if she paid any fed tax estimates? Was all of her income from Social Security?

I suspect you could make an estimated tax payment before April 15 on her behalf on the difference between her SD and her income. That would remove the chance of interest and penalties for any owed portion.

OTH - my mother used to write letters to the IRS on behalf of her clients, explaining why things happened the way they did. Often penalties were waived. And if your sister didn't have anything left in her estate, well, I don't think they'll have any recourse? Not sure, you could ask the attorney or tax specialist.
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by Gill »

bsteiner wrote: Fri Feb 22, 2019 12:02 pm
Of course, in this case, since there's no Will, the original poster can't probate the Will. But the procedure is similar for an intestate administration in Florida.

Yes, of course. I meant a petition for intestate administration, not probate.
Gill
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birdsong
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by birdsong »

OP, I'm not giving advice in your case but will tell you in 2016 the death of a cousin dying without a will in Colorado and me in another state was a challenge. Cousin was poor, no assets. Had about $200,000+ maybe life insurance but beneficiaries were dead. His best friend in my state wanted me to get invoved and this best friend of his went to Colorado to bring back his vehicle. It was like this friend was pushing me to get involved. I consulted my own lawyer and told him all the details. I looked into things somewhat after that. I did have him cremated and buried in the national cemetery. Long story short, I took my lawyer's advice to let the best friend do whatever he wanted to do with cousin's personal belongings and vehicle and I never got involved. So, I'm guessing the life insurance went to the unclaimed property of the state of Colorado. As soon as you become the respresentative for her estate your headches start. So, if she had no assests I'd not sign on as representative. Lawyers are expensive and the end result costs of handling her estate might cost you more than her monetary assests cover.
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by Ybsybs »

I'm sorry for your loss.
123
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by 123 »

If you have not done so already you should file a change of address with the post office (online) to change your sister's mail to come to your home.
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by OldTimer »

Thanks everyone for the advise.

To reply in general to all comments:

Yes, I have forwarded mail and believe I have some knowledge of some of my sister's assets.

She had told be she was saving for retirement, but she has less than $20,000 that I have been able to find.

The bank (only bank??) could not tell me anything specific since I was not her Personal Representative (PR) but suggested to me that once I was named as PR I should return and look for annuities / CD's etc. I was told this as the bank manager was looking at his computer screen.

I found her 2017 tax return, she did not owe any money.

The Lee County web page said that I must hire an attorney to process !! Anyway that has been started now, about 4-6 weeks since I gave the attorney the information. I assume the attorney filed at the County. Maybe I will call the County next week and seek to confirm it was filed.

The good news in all of this is that after cleaning out her house and getting it painted, new A/c etc. I received a contract with a 30 day close within 5 days of listing for 95% of the initial asking price.
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by RickBoglehead »

You should be able to find filings online, no need to call.

Make sure you're selling the property when you're named PR. You can't sell it without being named PR unless you're on the title, to my understanding.
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OldTimer
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by OldTimer »

RickBoglehead:

The title company says that since my sister and I were both on the title as JTWROS that I have clear title as long as I have an original death certificate. Which I have.

I have searched the Lee County Courts, no record. Maybe I am doing it wrong?
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by Gill »

OldTimer wrote: Sat Feb 23, 2019 9:03 am RickBoglehead:

The title company says that since my sister and I were both on the title as JTWROS that I have clear title as long as I have an original death certificate. Which I have.

I have searched the Lee County Courts, no record. Maybe I am doing it wrong?
No, that’s fine. You do have the authority as surviving joint tenant.
Gill
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by InMyDreams »

OldTimer wrote: Sat Feb 23, 2019 8:55 am

She had told be she was saving for retirement, but she has less than $20,000 that I have been able to find.

Others need to chime in, and, it may not apply in this situation but -
Isn't there an organization that keeps track of lost pensions and annuities?

Also, OP - have you checked with her employer to see if there are death benefits, or if they know of work-related savings plans?

OP, bravo for the work that you are doing. Sorry for your loss.
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by bsteiner »

OldTimer wrote: Sat Feb 23, 2019 8:55 am ...
The Lee County web page said that I must hire an attorney to process !! Anyway that has been started now, about 4-6 weeks since I gave the attorney the information. I assume the attorney filed at the County. Maybe I will call the County next week and seek to confirm it was filed.
...
You can search on the court's website under the name of the decedent and see what's been filed: https://www.leeclerk.org/courts/court-c ... rds-search. Have you signed the papers and returned them to the lawyer for filing?
OldTimer wrote: Sat Feb 23, 2019 9:03 am ...
The title company says that since my sister and I were both on the title as JTWROS that I have clear title as long as I have an original death certificate. Which I have.

I have searched the Lee County Courts, no record. Maybe I am doing it wrong?
You can search the Official Records for the deed under her name or your name: https://www.leeclerk.org/records/offici ... rds-search. You can also search the Property Appraiser's records under her name, your name, or the address: https://www.leepa.org/Search/PropertySearch.aspx.
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JoeRetire
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by JoeRetire »

OldTimer wrote: Fri Feb 22, 2019 11:03 am My sister passed away in Florida this past December 2018.
Sorry for your loss.
I am her only relative, no other siblings, no parents, never married, no kids.

I may be named her Personal Representative by April 15th, maybe not.

Her income should be less than $20,000, but the banks will not tell me anything until I am named her Personal Representative.

Seems to me that no one will file her taxes, the attorney says I have no authority to file her taxes for her.

I guess I just wait?
Yup, you just wait.

It seems that it would be odd if you weren't named Personal Representative given the facts of the situation. Make sure you are immediately notified when that happens.
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aspirit
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by aspirit »

A close friend was killed in Monroe county, 5 yrs back. https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/Florida-K ... 58501.html . He was a CME broker, turned retired shellfish trapper. His brother was awarded his assets after about 2-3yrs,... he had no will either.
It’s unfortunate all the costs involved.
Seems your in a better position as jtwros.
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bsteiner
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by bsteiner »

aspirit wrote: Sun Feb 24, 2019 8:48 pm A close friend was killed in Monroe county, 5 yrs back. https://www.nbcmiami.com/news/Florida-K ... 58501.html . He was a CME broker, turned retired shellfish trapper. His brother was awarded his assets after about 2-3yrs,... he had no will either.
It’s unfortunate all the costs involved.
A search on the Monroe County court website shows that a petition for summary administration (small estate) was filed August 27, 2014, and an order was issued six days later. He may have had other assets that passed outside of probate or administration.
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Update on Florida Probate Issue (Finally Resolved)

Post by OldTimer »

[Thread merged into here, see below. --admin LadyGeek]

I want to give everyone an update to my post of February 2019 on settling my sister’s estate in Florida. Someone might learn from my experience. I thank all those who responded to my questions back then.
To recap: my sister passed away in Florida in early December 2018. Cancer. I live in Colorado. She left no will, no trust etc. My sister and I had talked about the need for her to prepare her estate planning documents. It was on her “to-do list” I found on her desk. I am her only relative, no other siblings, no parents, never married, no kids. Started probate a few days after she passed by hiring an attorney. Small estate, less than $25,000. Liabilities exceeded assets. Real Estate was luckily in my name (JTWROS). That part to settle was easy since no probate on the house.
So I hired an attorney, 10% fee ($2500) paid upfront. I had no problem with paying this upfront. I signed the application a few days later. Nothing from the County courts month after month. I asked the attorney to follow-up. The attorney said the County was inefficient, slow, etc.
The issue: 5 ½ months after hiring the attorney still no application submittal to the County Probate office. Luckily I was able to check on the County web-page plus County probate staff checked for me. No submittal. I sent the attorney an email and letter saying I am hiring other representation since they were not able to even submit an application to the County. That new attorney also checked with the Probate office. No application ever submitted. The initial attorney said that they would not refund any money, none.
Ok, time to step it up a notch. I contacted the state level of the Florida BAR association. Started that process in August 2019. The BAR checked to see if an application was made, they confirmed that nothing was submitted to the probate office. Several levels of review at the BAR association. Bumped to the local level. Finally assigned to several investigating members of the BAR (practicing attorneys, peer review). Then a zoom meeting scheduled for last week (14 months after complaint filed). The day before the zoom meeting I got a check for all the prepaid fees. Hurrah !
The system works, just takes a long time.
A final note: the second attorney filed the application a few days after being hired, the Probate office of the County replied with a request for additional information in less than 3 weeks. I was named personal representative within 2 months of the request for additional information. Probate closed in June 2020, about a year after hiring the second attorney. I guess that is normal.
Lesson learned: Know your rights, have a will (which would still need to be probated) and if a large enough estate think about a trust or similar.
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Re: Update on Florida Probate Issue (Finally Resolved)

Post by Ben Mathew »

Thanks for the update. Glad it worked out.
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by LadyGeek »

It's best to keep all the information in one spot. I merged OldTimer's update back into the original discussion.
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OldTimer
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by OldTimer »

Thanks Lady Geek :)
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by tj »

Lesson learned: Know your rights, have a will (which would still need to be probated) and if a large enough estate think about a trust or similar.
How would a trust have made your life easier in this situation? I guess, what would "large enough" be? Maybe it depends on state?
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OldTimer
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Re: Help with Sister's Estate

Post by OldTimer »

Correct A trust would not have be appropriate.
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