When a loved one passes away, there are a number of legal steps required to administer the estate.
If the assets are in a trust, we can almost always administer the estate without court involvement. If there is no trust, a court-supervised probate is often required. It is certainly easier, faster and less expensive to administer a trust than to go through probate. But, in both cases, the same general process applies.
Once we determine which document(s) will control the estate, it is necessary to establish the authority of the administrator - called a trustee, executor and/or personal representative.
The next step is to gather the assets of the estate and ensure that they are properly managed and protected while the estate administration proceeds.
Then, we settle any debts and resolve any claims. This step may include preparing and filing an estate tax return, if required.
Next, we inform the beneficiaries of the actions taken on behalf of the estate and determine how the assets are to be distributed. Finally, the administrator distributes the assets and closes the estate. In some cases, a trust will require that assets be held in a continuing trust. In those cases, we assist the trustee in ongoing trust administration.