probate and trust estate administration
Probate is a legal process by which the ownership of property is transferred from the deceased person to their devisees or heirs.
After the death of a family member you will need advice regarding how the deceased person’s bills can be paid, tax returns filed, and assets distributed to the person(s) legally entitled to them.
Probate is needed if the deceased person did not have a trust, and if the property in the estate exceeds $75,000.00 in value. If the estate is valued at less than $75,000.00, the assets can be transferred by means of an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property and/or an Affidavit of Succession to Real Property. If the deceased person had a trust, no probate is usually necessary.
In Arizona a Personal Representative (known as an executor in other states) is appointed by the Court to act in the place of the deceased person. A deceased person’s estate can be probated if the deceased has a valid will (testate) or if the deceased does not have a will (intestate).
I can assist you to probate an estate that is either testate (with a will) or intestate (without a will). In either situation the appropriate documents will be prepared and filed with the court. Every effort will be made to make the probate process as smooth and as expeditious as possible.
TRUST ESTATE ADMINISTRATION
When a person dies leaving a valid trust, Trust Administration becomes necessary to carry out the wishes of the decedent as written in his or her trust. Trust Administration refers to the trustee's management of the property owned by the trust according to the trust document's terms and for the benefit of the beneficiaries after the trust creator's (settlor's) death.
Trust Administration differs from a Probate. In a Probate, it is the Personal Representative who administers the Estate whereas in a Trust Administration, the Trustee has this responsibility. Many steps are required to ensure effective administration. A successor trustee must act in their fiduciary capacity in the administration of a trust, which means the trustee has an obligation to protect the trust assets and the interests of the beneficiaries.
Trust administration starts with mandatory notice to all beneficiaries and heirs. The trustee will need to ascertain all trust assets, such as real property and bank and investment accounts. The trustee is responsible for using trust funds to satisfy the decedent’s debts and liabilities. The trustee must also oversee all trust activity, including deposits and distributions from the trust, and review the trust to determine the appropriate mode of accounting to the beneficiaries. The principal source of Trustee powers and duties is the trust agreement itself, so it is important for the Trustee to be familiar with the terms of the trust. At the onset of the administration process I can assist the successor trustee to assess the extent of his or her accounting obligation and other responsibilities. Taxes can be complicated because both estate and income taxes may be owed if the estate is sufficiently large. Once the assets have been collected, the debts paid and the tax returns filed, the trustee should distribute the remaining trust assets to the beneficiaries named in the trust. The terms of the trust document will order how the trust assets should be dispersed among the beneficiaries.
I can offer peace of mind to the Trustee by making sure the terms of the trust agreement and all statutory obligations have been satisfied. If you have been appointed as a Successor Trustee or are currently acting as a Trustee, contact me so that I can assist you in fulfilling your fiduciary duties.