When a person passes away, their estate needs to be administered. Estate administration is generally in the form of either a Probate or a Trust Administration.
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Probate and Trust Administration
When a family member or loved one passes away, the grieving process is often made more difficult by the need to take care of practical matters. In addition to making funeral arrangements and handling other miscellaneous items, the person may have left behind a house, personal property, bank accounts, or other assets that need to be addressed. Depending on the size, value, and complexity of the decedent's assets, this process can be relatively easy or very complicated and time consuming.
Generally, there are 2 primary routes the administration can take:
- Probate: If the person who died left assets valued at over $150,000 (and did not have a living trust), the estate must go through the court-supervised probate process. Here, a personal representative will be appointed to handle all the aspects of probate: marshalling the assets, having them appraised, paying estate debts and taxes, and distributing what is left to the beneficiaries or heirs.
- Trust administration: If the decedent had a trust, the property held in the trust is generally administered according to the terms of the trust, outside of probate court (but still subject to the rules of the probate code). Instead of a personal representative, the named trustee is responsible for managing trust assets and carrying out the trust terms for the beneficiaries.
For both probate and trust administration, how smoothly the process goes will depend on many factors:
- What type of estate planning was done (if any);
- The type of property and complexity of the estate;
- How well the family members get along;
- Whether someone contests the will or trust; and
- Most importantly, how skilled and responsible the personal administrator or trustee is.
The person responsible for handling the administration process has the largest burden. He or she must comply with all probate rules (and terms of the trust), and make sure assets are responsibly managed and get to the right people. The trustee or personal representative may be held personally responsible for mismanaging the assets or the administration process.
Helix Law Firm can help with probate or trust administration
We can walk you through the probate or trust administration process and help you avoid complications, so you can focus on moving on with your life.