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Epling Law Office, LLC
Estate & Trust Administration
When a loved one passes on, the last thing on your mind is how to account for their assets and report your findings to the government. You need space to grieve and seek closure, but unfortunately, the law requires that a final accounting be done within a short period of time. Aside from beneficiary designations available on some assets, Estate Administration and Trust Administration are the two most common methods of passing assets to loved ones.
Estate administration is carried out to verify the validity of the decedent's last will and testament, or to aid in the distribution of assets in the event that no estate planning documents are present. Probate is conducted in the probate court and can take anywhere from months to years to fully complete. In order to conclude the process, several key actions must be taken.
The first step of probate is validation of the will. An application must be filed at the probate court in the deceased person’s last county of residence. At this time, the court will verify the validity of the will. Next, an executor must be appointed. The executor is the person who will gather and guard the decedent's assets, pay debts and taxes, and distribute assets following the terms of his or her will. Following the appointment of an executor is the inventory of the estate. At this time, all assets must be appraised to determine the estate’s total value. Debts and taxes must then be paid before asset distribution may occur. Once all other matters have been attended to, the executor will file a final account and the decedent's beneficiaries may receive their inheritances as designated by the will.
Trust administration involves many of the same steps as probate but is typically cheaper, quicker and less work simply because there is less involvement with the courts. Therefore, it is also offers more privacy. Still, there are key steps that must be carried out to ensure all loose ends are tied.
Just as in probate, all assets must be appraised to determine their value at the beginning of trust administration. After taxes are dealt with, assets may then be distributed according to the trust.
PREVENTING OBSTACLES IN ASSET DISTRIBUTION
It is important to note that creditors have six months from the date of death to file a claim with the executor (or fiduciary) of the estate. The catch here is that the executor with whom a claim must be filed must be appointed by the court first. This means that an executor can wait until 6 months after the date of death before applying to be executor and, as long as nobody else has been appointed executor, no claims can be made against the estate! (with some exceptions)
In addition, there are some problems that may occur during the probate and trust administration process. At times, beneficiaries may feel entitled to a larger share of assets than the will or trust provides. They may even believe the deceased was coerced, tricked or unfairly influenced when the document was created. Others may disapprove of the appointed executor and propose that someone he or she believes to be more competent take over. I have also encountered individuals who suspect that their loved one’s will or trust does not conform to legal standards. These are all difficult situations to navigate, but I am here to guide you and your family with my knowledge and experience and resolve any issues that arise along the way.
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