Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Estate Administration - Each Situation is Unique

Lynn A. Dean
Estate Planning Attorney
People often express embarrassment not knowing the Q & A’s of their aging loved one’s estate.  The truth is most people are caught off guard, are bereaving or are detached from the intimate knowledge of their loved one’s daily life, financial matters or last wishes.  There isn't a book or resource we would recommend on this topic because each situation is unique.  A number of questions need to be answered, including: 
  • Does the person have a Trust or a Will? Did they designate beneficiaries on their accounts?
  • What are their debts? 
  • What are their assets?
If there is a death and you consult an attorney regarding trust administration, the attorney will provide you with a checklist of the things that need to be done. You and the attorney can decide who will take on the responsibility for each of the tasks. 

The administration of an estate through the probate process will take a minimum of six months and can take as long as several years, depending on the complexity. The administration of a trust is generally a shorter process, but there are specific notices that need to be sent to the beneficiaries, which allow them 120 days to contest the terms of the trust. The trustee still has to preserve the assets of the estate during that time period, which means the trustee is responsible for paying the bills. 

I am not trying to make it seem complicated, but there are a lot of things that happen during the administration of an estate. You will be best served by working with a team of professionals (an attorney, a CPA, and a financial planner), who can guide you through the process based upon their experience in these matters.

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