Managing the grief that follows the death of a loved one is never easy. Trying to navigate your role as Executor of the Will or Trustee of a Trust at the same time can be even more difficult and stressful.
The probate attorney at Amato Law, PLLC can help you understand and fulfill your duties and responsibilities if you find yourself in charge of probating an estate and/or administering a Trust.
What Does the Probate Process Entail?
The estate you leave behind when you die may include real property, personal property, and/or intangible property. Your estate assets must be secured, inventoried, and ultimately transferred to the intended beneficiaries or legal heirs. The legal process by which this is accomplished is referred to as “probate.”
When a decedent leaves behind a Last Will and Testament, depending upon state law in most cases the decedent’s distributees (heirs at law) must be notified and then consent to the appointment of the person named in the Will to act in the capacity of Executor. If the distributees do not object and the Court finds that the Will was executed pursuant to statutory law, a court order will be executed granting Letters Testamentary to the Executor so that they have the legal authority to retitle the assets of the decedent to the decedent’s estate. The Executor cannot act on behalf of the estate unless they have Letters Testamentary to support their legal authority. If the decedent has multiple properties in more than one state then multiple ancillary probate procedures will be required.
The executor is responsible for paying outstanding debts and collecting the assets owed to the decedent. They have a fiduciary duty to protect the inheritance of the beneficiaries during the time it may take to settle the estate.
If the decedent died intestate (without a Will), the court will appoint someone to oversee the administration of the estate. The decedents distributees will need to consent to the appointment of the administrator. And in contrast to the probate process, Letters of Administration will be granted by the Surrogate’s Court so that the appointed Administrator has the legal authority to represent the estate and distribute the remaining assets in the estate to the distributees pursuant to the intestate statutory law.
Probate can be confusing and time-consuming, making mistakes likely. If you find yourself responsible for probating an estate, having an experienced probate attorney on your side decreases the possibility of making those mistakes.
What Is Trust Administration?
A Trust is often used to distribute some (or all) of an estate. A primary benefit to using a Trust is that Trust assets are not required to go through probate if the assets were retitled to a Trust during the decedent’s lifetime. When a Trust is created, the creator of the Trust (known as the “Grantor or Settlor”) appoints a Trustee to administer the Trust assets without the oversight of the Surrogate’s Court upon the death of the Grantor. It also eliminates the need for ancillary probate if the decedent owned property in multiple states.
As the Trustee of a Trust, you will have a variety of duties and responsibilities, such as managing and investing Trust assets, maintaining Trust records, and ensuring that all taxes owed by the Trust are paid. You are also required to follow the terms of the Trust and maintain an accounting of the assets collected and the debts paid. Working with an experienced Trust administration attorney is the best way to make sure you successfully carry out your responsibilities during the Trust administration process.
Our attorney at Amato Law, PLLC can help you in your role as the Executor of a Will during probate or as the Trustee of a Trust during Trust administration. Contact our office today by calling 212-355-5255 or filling out our online contact form.