Probate & Trust Administration
We advise fiduciaries (Executors of Probate Estates and Trustees of Trusts) in properly fulfilling their duties.
When a loved one passes away, his or her estate often goes through a court-managed Probate administration where the assets of the deceased are managed and distributed. If your loved-one owned his or her assets through a well drafted and properly funded living trust, it is likely that no court-managed administration is necessary, though the successor trustee needs to administer the assets of the deceased. The length of time needed to complete the probate of an estate depends on the size and complexity of the estate.
Almost all Probate Estates involve the following:
- Filing of a petition with the appropriate Probate court.
- Notice to heirs at law and beneficiaries named in the Last Will.
- Petition to appoint Executor for the estate.
- Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by Executor/Administrator.
- Payment of estate debts to rightful creditors.
- Sale of estate assets.
- Communication with beneficiaries.
- Preparation and payment of the decedent’s final income tax return and income tax return for the estate.
- Preparation and payment of the decedent’s estate tax return (state and federal), if applicable.
- Final distribution of assets to beneficiaries.
Certain types of assets are non-probate assets do not require the administration of the Probate Court to be distributed, for example:
- Property held as “joint tenants with right of survivorship”.
- Qualified retirement plans such as IRAs and 401(k) accounts with designated beneficiaries other than the decedent’s estate.
- Life insurance with a designated beneficiary other than the decedent’s estate.
- Accounts with transfer on death (TOD) designation or “in trust for” designations.
- Property owned by a Living, or Revocable, Trust.
Common expenses of an estate include executor’s fees, attorney’s fees, accountant’s fees, inventory and court costs, and appraisal fees. Probate estates are usually settled in 12 to 18 months, assuming there are no issues such as Will contests, creditor controversies or estate tax audits.