Especially in large or fairly complex estates or trusts, the ultimate value of your client’s inheritance often depends in large part on how income and expense items are accounted for and allocated among the beneficiaries. Spotting these fiduciary accounting issues in advance (either as an estate planner or probate lawyer) is easier said than done.

One way to tackle that problem is to have a list of hot-button fiduciary accounting scenarios to be on the look out for. Which is exactly what William C. Carroll and John W. Randolph, Jr., deliver in an excellent article they published in this month’s Florida Bar Journal. In Things That May Surprise You About Florida’s Principal and Income Act and Related Accounting Law, Part I, the authors explain how Florida’s Principal and Income Act would apply (in often unexpected ways) in each of the following scenarios:

  1. Specifically Devised Real Estate
  2. Rental Real Estate
  3. Distributions Received by a Private Trustee from Investment Entity and a Targeted Entity
  4. Allocation of Receipts at Decedent’s Death
  5. Death of an Income Beneficiary
  6. Pecuniary Amounts

Here’s an excerpt from the article’s introduction:

In 2002, the Florida Legislature adopted the Florida Uniform Principal and Income Act, effective on January 1, 2003 (the act). The act, which is found in F.S. Ch. 738, is a modified version of the Uniform Principal and Income Act (1997) [click here]. The statutory sections of the act allocate trust and estate receipts and disbursements between income and principal. Additionally, the act contains provisions that allow a trustee to make adjustments between income and principal (§738.104) and to convert a trust to a unitrust (§738.1041). Sections 738.104 and 738.1041 are beyond the scope of this article.

It is significant to note that the statutory sections of the act are “default” sections, meaning that the provisions of Ch. 738 only apply if the terms of the trust or will do not contain a different provision or do not give the fiduciary a discretionary power of administration. It is critically important that attorneys practicing in the trusts and estates area have a working knowledge of the act. Through extensive examples, this two-part article will explore the inner workings of some of the more significant provisions of the act. These examples assume that the will or trust is silent as to allocating the receipt or disbursement at issue to either income or principal, and does not give the fiduciary a discretionary power of administration.