Clients who need help with Probate or Trust Administration have recently lost a loved one, and we take great pride in assisting them through these matters. Navigating the court system, gathering and managing assets, paying debts, and being the go-to person for beneficiaries are the last things someone should have to deal with while grieving a family member. We are honored to serve each client and their families. Regardless of whether you are administering a simple estate or a complex estate, we are dedicated to alleviating your stress by allowing you to focus on your family.
What is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process of paying your debts and distributing your property to your beneficiaries. Probate is required, and can take months or years before the beneficiaries can 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 big advantage to creating a Living Trust is that it avoids Probate. Similar to Probate, the ultimate goal of Trust Administration is to transfer the property from an individual who has died to the beneficiaries identified in his/her Living Trust. However, unlike the Probate process, Trust Administration is private and therefore not a court-supervised process.
There are three parties involved in a Living Trust: you as the creator (called the Trustor), you as 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 guided by state law, and may obtain and rely on the advice of professionals regarding the management of the assets – this is when Bender Law is happy to assist. The Trustee is responsible for taking care of the Trust’s assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Your Trustee will have a list of duties, 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;
Pay debts to creditors;
Pay all federal and state taxes;
Keep detailed records of their actions, especially accounting;
Provide accounting to beneficiaries when asked;
Make investments and other financial decisions; and
Transferring inheritances to the beneficiaries.
Costs paid to the Trustee are generally much lower than those associated with a Probate. The fees to administer a Trust are usually paid with some reference to the actual amount of time needed to complete the Trust Administration. This often results in a much lower cost to the estate.
Many clients require in-depth guidance through every facet of the Probate or Trust Administration process, along with aggressive representation when Probate proceedings give rise to litigation. Other clients prefer to navigate the process on their own, simply turning to their legal representatives for feedback when necessary. Bender Law strives to give all clients the exact amount of support they require. Therefore, in addition to full representation, Bender Law also offers Advisory Services, which grants clients a greater level of autonomy.