Probate is a court proceeding in which a person’s assets are retitled and distributed after he or she passes away. Assets are distributed as outlined in the decedent’s will or, if there is no will, according to what is known as the Law of Intestacy. In the latter case, the decedent’s assets are distributed according to State guidelines.
While much of our practice helps clients avoid probate, families often hire us to assist them with the probate and estate settlement process. While no two estates are alike, here is a partial list of the duties required to settle a “typical” estate:
- Locate and file the decedent’s will (if he or she had one) with the local Court
- File necessary probate documents with the Court
- Locate, inventory, custody, close and transfer personal assets and accounts
- Appraise and determine the value of all assets
- Ascertain, and then notify, all known creditors of the estate
- Make payments to creditors, discharge the decedent’s obligations and obtain creditor releases
- Process and obtain life insurance death benefits
- Secure the decedent’s residence and tangible personal property
- File tax returns and make appropriate tax elections
- Pay estate taxes and final personal income taxes
- Obtain tax releases and closing letters from the IRS, local Courts and State taxing authorities
- Make specific bequests, together with partial and final distributions, to beneficiaries. (This may involve the packaging and shipping of tangible personal property.)
- Provide detailed accounting to beneficiaries and possibly the local Court
Accomplishing all of this would be hard enough without the added grief that comes with losing a loved one. At Bennett Watson Trust, Estate & Elder Law, LLC, we can guide you through the process and make it as stress-free as possible. You are not alone at this difficult time. Contact us today to schedule a personal meeting.
South Georgia and North Florida Trust Administration Attorney
While there are many types of trusts, the administration process usually involves notifying certain individuals in accordance with the law; opening bank accounts; settling creditor claims; paying the decedent’s final expenses; arranging for the sale of assets; filings with the court, the IRS and state taxing authorities and more. Proper accounting must be maintained throughout the process and provided to beneficiaries of the trust.
You should know that a trustee can be subject to severe financial and legal penalties for failing to properly administer a trust. If you have been asked to serve as trustee, we can explain the job and guide you through the process. In addition, we can work closely with your existing advisors and personal representatives to ensure all directives of the trust are carried out.
If you are responsible for administering a trust, contact us today to schedule a personal meeting. We are here to guide you through every aspect of the process.