When a loved one passes away, the survivors typically go through a period of heightened emotions, including denial, anger, depression, and grief. If you recently lost someone close to you, the last thing you probably want to think about are the legal ramifications of your loved one’s death. If you were appointed as the Executor of the estate or the Trustee of a trust, however, it means your loved one is counting on you to oversee the probate of the estate and/or the administration of the trust. Given the complexity of both probate and the living trust administration, coupled with the grief you are undoubtedly experiencing, it is in your best interest to work closely with the probate lawyers at Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd. to ensure that costly mistakes are avoided.
Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd. represents executors and trustees who take on the responsibility of overseeing the probate and trust administration process after a death. We also represent heirs and beneficiaries throughout the process. To find out more about how our firm can assist you, give us a call at (775) 823-9455 today.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process that is usually required after a death to distribute the estate of a decedent. If you were named as the Executor of the estate, or you volunteer to oversee the administration of the estate because the decedent died without a Will, you must navigate the probate process from start to finish. Although no two estates are exactly the same, there are several common steps you are likely to encounter during the probate process, including:
- Identifying, locating, securing, and valuing the assets of the decedent.
- Initiating the probate process by submitting the decedent’s Last Will and Testament (if applicable) along with a petition to open probate to the appropriate court.
- Identifying and locating the legal heirs if the decedent died intestate (without a Will).
- Notifying creditors of the estate that probate is underway and allowing time for those creditors to file claims against the estate.
- Reviewing claims filed by creditors and approving or denying each claim.
- Paying approved claims with available estate assets.
- Arranging for the liquidation of estate assets if necessary to pay debts of the estate.
- Defending the estate in the event of disputes.
- Calculating and paying any gift and estate taxes due.
- Effectuating the legal transfer of remaining assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate.
The Basics of a Living Trust Administration
You may also find yourself in charge of administering a trust after the death of a loved one if you were appointed to be the Trustee by the Settlor (creator of the trust). Many people elect to use a trust as their primary instrument for the distribution of their estate assets because assets held in a trust bypass the probate process. Consequently, trust assets can be distributed to the intended beneficiaries immediately after the death of the Settlor instead of waiting for the conclusion of the probate process. Parents who have a minor child also frequently add a testamentary trust to their estate plan as a way to protect the minor child’s inheritance because a minor cannot inherit directly from the estate of a parent. The fact that the terms of a trust agreement remain private, unless there is a need for litigation, is yet another reason why a trust may be chosen to distribute an estate.
If you find yourself appointed as the Trustee of a trust, and have never before served as a Trustee, the advice and guidance of an experienced trust administration attorney will be invaluable. As the Trustee, your duties and responsibilities will be complex and time-consuming. Your primary job as Trustee is to manage and protect the trust assets. You will also be responsible for investing and distributing the trust assets using the terms created by the Settlor. In addition, you have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust that requires you to use the utmost care when carrying out your responsibilities as Trustee. Finally, you must understand and abide by all state and federal laws, including tax laws, that apply to the trust. Working with a trust administration attorney at Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd. is the best way to avoid costly errors during the administering of a trust.
Beneficiaries and Heirs
Beneficiaries and heirs are also an integral part of the probate and trust administration process. Although the terms are frequently used interchangeably, they actually refer to two similar, yet distinct, classes of people. An heir is someone who stands to inherit from an estate according to the intestate succession laws of the state in which the estate is probated. For example, if your parent died intestate, or without a valid Last Will and Testament, only legal heirs of your parent would inherit from the estate. A beneficiary is a person, entity, or even family pet, named by the decedent in a Will or trust to inherit from the estate. If that same parent named you as a beneficiary in a trust, for instance, you would receive distributions from that trust according to the terms created by your parent.
When all goes as planned during probate, a beneficiary or heir should not need the assistance of an attorney. Unfortunately, things do not always go as planned. In fact, probate disputes are fairly common. If you wish to contest the Will submitted for probate, for example, you should consult with the probate attorneys at Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd. right away to discuss your legal options.
As the beneficiary of a trust, you may also need the assistance of an experienced trust administration attorney for a variety of reasons. Just as a beneficiary has the right to contest a Will, you also have the right to contest a trust if you feel it is invalid for any of several recognized legal reasons. You may be concerned that the Trustee is not administering the trust properly or is failing to act altogether and wish to remove the Trustee. An attorney may also be able to help you amend, modify, revoke, or terminate a trust. The complexity of most trust agreements can leave beneficiaries at a disadvantage when a problem arises which is why you should consult with an experienced trust attorney right away if you have questions or concerns about how a trust is being administered.
Probate and Trust Administration Attorneys
Whether you are an executor, trustee, beneficiary, or heir, the Reno, Nevada attorneys at Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd. are dedicated to helping you navigate the complex probate and living trust administration process. Give us a call at (775) 823-9455 or contact us online to find out more about how we can help you.