When a loved one dies it can be a confusing time in which you are in immense grief while also needing to make sure you handle all the technical details of locating assets, paying bills and taxes and making sure your loved one’s assets get to the right people without court or conflict.
Whether your loved one created a trust to hold their assets, or did not, he or she had assets (called the decedent's estate) that must be handled with careful attention to minimize conflict and ensure the smoothest possible transition of those assets.
When someone creates a trust as part of their estate plan, they must name a trustee to ensure the trust’s terms are handled properly. This individual must carry out all of the trust’s instructions, and they are legally responsible for doing so within the scope of federal and state law. Such duties are known as trust administration.
Serving in this capacity entails a great level of responsibility and some liability. What’s more, most people named as trustee will have limited, if any, background or experience in the legal and financial duties that come with administering a trust. In this case, I can work with the trustee to ensure the trust is administered properly and all legal requirements are satisfied.
If there is no trust or if not all assets have been properly titled in the name of a trust that was created, I can help your family through the process of estate administration, usually requiring a court process called probate. If you are a beneficiary of an estate, or an executor (personal representative) or a trustee, contact me for support in handling the transition of your loved ones assets as easily as possible.
How Do I Help?
I work closely with the family, beneficiaries, and other advisors to ensure the decedent's trust assets are collected, debts are paid, and the remaining assets are distributed to the named trust beneficiaries, or to the heirs of the estate.
Depending on the type of trust involved, assets may be distributed outright to the named beneficiaries, or they might be held in trust for the future benefit of the named beneficiaries.
If there is no trust, assets will either be distributed outright to heirs named in a will, or by statute, or held by a guardian named by the court until an heir reaches the age of majority.
During this time, we may also need to have appraisals of major assets completed in order to get a clear picture of what the decedent's net worth was for estate tax purposes. Additionally, the title of other estate assets may need to be changed to indicate new ownership by the named beneficiary outright or under a continuing trust.
What Is Involved With Trust and Estate Administration?
Some of the most common trust and estate administration responsibilities include:
Identification, collection, and determination of values of assets
Payment of all debts, expenses, and taxes from estate and trust assets, with submission of regular accountings
Seeking professional advice as to disposition of jointly held assets, life insurance, and retirement benefits that pass outside a will or trust
Preparation of state and federal, gift, generation-skipping transfer, and gift tax returns
Notifying all heirs and beneficiaries of the trust or estate
Communicating with beneficiaries
I can assist with accomplishing these duties without unnecessary delay and with utmost respect for your personal privacy and your family relationships. The primary objective is to make this process as easy as possible for you and to minimize the impact of going to court, while also keeping your family out of conflict. I work closely with personal representatives, executors, beneficiaries, and other fiduciaries to ensure the terms of the trust are carried out properly. At the same time, I’ll aim to make the process as understandable and stress-free as possible for the trustee.