When someone is no longer able to manage their own property or financial affairs (if they become incapacitated or when they pass away), it is necessary to have someone else with the authority to manage their assets. How their estate will have to be administered will depend on what assets the person owns (and how they are owned) and the kind of planning was done by that person.
In the estate administration area of the law, we either
work within the Probate system to assist clients with Guardianships (if the person is incapacitated) or with Probate estates (when the person has passed away); or
work in a Trust Administration if the person had a Revocable Living Trust set up and had the Trust properly funded.
No matter what kind of estate administration is required, we assist our clients go through the process in our 6 Step Administration Process:
We help the Executor or Trustee understand their general role and responsibilities in the estate administration.
The legal documents that are in place will determine what needs to be done in any estate, so a thorough review of the Will and/or Trust are necessary to understand the legal process that will be used, who will ultimately receive the assets of the estate, and how those distributions will be made.
Asset Identification & Collection
The identification and collection of the estate assets is a critical step in the process. The type of each asset and how they are owned will determine whether a Probate or a Trust Administration will be used. The Executor or Trustee must identify all assets owned by the individual or the Trust, determine their date of death value, and gain the legal control over the assets. Real Estate and vehicles must be secured and insured.
The legally enforceable debts of the deceased need to be identified and paid from the estate or trust assets, if possible. This must be done before distributions are made to any beneficiaries.
This step of the process focuses on the proper reporting and payment of any taxes owed. The Executor or Trustee is responsible for preparation and filing of any income tax, gift tax and/or estate tax returns for the decedent and the estate/trust and the payments of any taxes owed for each. We work with the Executor or Trustee and their tax preparer to make sure that the proper returns are filed on a timely basis.
This is the step where distributions of the estate/trust assets are made to the beneficiaries. This can include the distribution of specific bequests, outright distribution to the estate/trust beneficiaries, and possibly the establishment of ongoing trust shares for the trust’s beneficiaries. The Executor/Trustee must prepare an accounting of the assets showing what was done with all of the assets that were entrusted to him or her. This is necessary to comply with the legal requirements and to protect the Executor or Trustee from potential liability.