Probate, Estate and Trust Administration
The loss of a loved one can be overwhelming. The need to administer the estate and make important family and financial decisions while mourning is always challenging. Our experience in navigating the estate and trust administration processes allows us to assist you effectively, efficiently and compassionately.
Probate is the court-supervised administration of a person’s estate when he or she has died with a will as the primary estate planning document or without an estate plan. The probate process is designed to assure that the deceased person’s assets are collected and protected, that his or her debts are paid, and that the remaining estate assets are distributed to the persons specified in the decedent’s will, or as provided by law if there is no will.
We regularly represent and assist fiduciaries (executors or administrators) of probate estates. Our services include advising and representing you in all court proceedings, and advising and assisting in collecting the estate’s assets, obtaining appraisals of the estate assets, paying the estate’s debts, if any, preparing and obtaining approval of required accountings of the estate, and making final distribution of the net assets to the beneficiaries.
We also advise clients and their accounting professionals (if any) in using post-mortem planning techniques to minimize and defer estate taxes and in preparing and filing any necessary estate tax returns.
We assist trustees in the administration of trusts both before and after the death of a the persons who created the trust. These trusts vary in size and complexity.
We assist clients in funding their living trusts, in administering irrevocable trusts and administering revocable trusts which must be administered by a successor trustee due to the client’s incapacity. These services typically include advising the trustees on general trust administration matters, trust distributions and related tax issues, and preparing and obtaining approval of accountings of the trust administration.
We also have extensive experience in assisting trustees in the administration of trusts created upon the death of a client and trusts created by our clients during their lifetimes to implement their estate and family planning objectives.
It is a common misconception that a trust avoids all burdens of administering and transferring a person’s estate. While a properly funded trust avoids the expense and delay of court proceedings, the trust must be properly administered to ensure that its goals are achieved. Failure to properly administer a trust can have severe tax and non-tax consequences and expose the trustee to personal liability to the trust beneficiaries.
The legal services required in any particular case will vary, but we typically assist trustees in:
Determining the procedures required to implement the specific trust and transfer its assets;
Collecting and assuming control over the trust assets;
Pursuing any court procedures that may be required due to the decedent’s failure to properly transfer assets to the trust during his or her lifetime;
Proper management and protection of the trust property, including maintenance of appropriate property and liability insurance;
Obtaining appraisals of the trust assets;
Paying the decedent’s debts which are collectible from the trust;
Preparing and obtaining approval of required accountings and reports of the trust’s administration;
Assuring that all necessary estate and income tax returns are prepared and filed;
Preparing and filing documents necessary to notify county assessors of the changes in real estate ownership resulting from the death and preparing and filing documents required to avoid property tax reassessment, where appropriate;
Allocating trust assets to subtrusts (such as survivor’s trusts, estate tax credit shelter (“bypass”) trusts and marital trusts), and establishing procedures for the administration of those trusts; and
Making final distribution of the net assets of to the beneficiaries.