Probate and Trust Administration
People who need help with probate or trust administration often are in a delicate, sensitive situation—not only have they have recently lost a loved one, they now are expected to navigate the court system, gather and manage assets, pay debts, and handle beneficiaries. Those are the last things someone should have to deal with while grieving, and we take great pride in alleviating those burdens for our clients. Regardless of whether you are administering a simple or complex estate, we will focus on the details so you can focus on your family.
What is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process of paying your debts and distributing your property to your beneficiaries. It is required, and can take months or years before the beneficiaries receive their inheritances.
The first step is filing the will with the court. Once a will is filed, it becomes a public document— anyone can see it in the court’s records. Therefore, any disgruntled heir can file a “will contest,” which is a lawsuit challenging the validity of the will.
As the creator of your will, you are the Testator. You will name a Personal Representative in your will to handle the probate process upon your death. The Personal Representative is responsible for:
- Paying your debts
- Distributing property to beneficiaries
- Selling property in the estate
- Preparing and filing income or estate tax returns
- Engaging in litigation on behalf of the estate
Complications with Probate
Contested guardianships and conservatorships
Alleged breach of fiduciary duty
Petitions to remove Personal Representatives
What is Trust Administration?
The key advantage to creating a living trust is that it allows your estate to avoid probate. Even though the ultimate goal of trust administration is to transfer property to beneficiaries from an individual who has died, unlike the probate process, trust administration is private. It is not a court-supervised process, so the cost is usually lower and the process often moves faster.
There are three parties involved in a living trust: the creator (called the Trustor), the manager (the Trustee), and the beneficiaries. During your life, you will be the Trustor and the Trustee. You’ll also name a Trustee to be in charge of the administration of your estate after you have passed away.
The Trustee is responsible for taking care of the trust’s assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries. They are guided by state law, and allowed to seek the advice of professionals regarding their duties. Expert guidance is important, especially in complex situations, because Trustees have many responsibilities, including (but not limited to):
- Notifying beneficiaries of their inheritances.
- Filing a “Non-Probate Notice to Creditors.”
- Gathering and assessing the value of your assets.
- Paying debts to creditors.
- Paying all federal and state taxes.
- Keeping detailed records of their actions, especially accounting.
- Providing accounting to beneficiaries when asked.
- Making investment and other financial decisions.
- Transferring inheritances to the beneficiaries.
Probate and trust administration can be complex and frustrating, especially in a time of grief. Bender Law can help ease the burden and ensure your loved one’s wishes are met.