On December 12, 2013

The death of a loved one can be a very emotional time. This is a time when families and friends come together to spend time reminiscing about times spent with the deceased loved one and try to help one another heal.

The ways of handling legal issues can vary greatly with each asset that the decedent owned. The technical requirements for distribution can vary because of the type of asset that was owned, the title ownership of the asset, how much the asset was worth, and whether the asset had a beneficiary designation. Below is a very brief description of two of the main types of estate administration upon a person’s death: Probate and Trust Administration.

Probate:  Whenever someone dies with assets that did not pass automatically to beneficiaries (such as those held in living trusts, joint tenancy, beneficiary designation, payable on death and transfer on death), probate is required. It is legal and possible for an individual to fill out and file probate documents with Court without the assistance of an attorney, but this can be a very complicated process for those who have never had to go through it before. Our experienced staff can take care of the necessary court documents and try to keep you on the correct path to administering a probate estate as quickly and efficiently as possible. We are always here to answer any questions you may have and provide any help necessary with any step of the estate.

Trust Administration:  If a loved one dies with assets owned by a living trust, they have taken steps to make the transition to a successor to manage their assets upon their mental incapacity, and help with the cost of administration of their estate upon their death.

In the easiest cases, you may simply need a new document evidencing the transfer from one “Trustee” to the next. In some of the more complicated cases, the trust may split into numerous trusts to do things such as: avoid estate and generation skipping transfer taxes, protect a loved one’s inheritance from future divorce, creditors, or even themselves, or to provide piece of mind that the decedent’s hard earned assets will survive numerous generations.

These cases can be much like probate, with one person, or a committee of people acting as Trustee(s) managing the assets until the ultimate distribution. The Trustee is held accountable for all assets of the trust and must provide an inventory and accounting to all beneficiaries.

If a Trust is administered and distributed quickly, efficiently and correctly, beneficiaries will have no cause to complain and thus, costs will be significantly reduced. However, if a trust is not administered in the correct fashion, it may give rise to mistrust, complaints, added time explaining problems and ultimately lead to Court actions for removal and sanctions.

If you find yourself as a beneficiary with a Trustee that is avoiding you, not providing you with requested information, etc. you may need to seek legal counsel. Depending on your situation, there are certain steps that can be taken to attempt a cordial resolution of the issues, as well as, steps that can be taken to seek Court removal of the current Trustee if the circumstances require it.

Categories: Estate Administration

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