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Trust & Estate Administration

"planning means more freedom...not less."

Michael E. Graham • Attorney at Law

Trust and Estate Administration involves the process of collecting, managing, and distributing the Trust and Estate of a Decedent. Our offices provides extensive service in guiding and assisting the successor Trustee of Trusts and the Administrator of an Estate or Executor of the Will in fulfilling the functions and duties of those fiduciaries. A useful checklist entitled “Estate Checklist for Trustees and Survivors” can be found attached to the right of this summary. Donner Lake

Assets belonging to the Decedent, and the Decedent’s spouse must be administered in different ways, depending upon how the title to those assets were held. Joint tenancy and community property, with right of survivorship, may pass to the survivor automatically, but Affidavits may need to be recorded on real property and bank account changes need to be administered by the survivor.

Assets titled in the name of a Trust will be administered by the successor Trustee, in accord with the terms of the Trust and applicable Trust law. Other assets may pass to designated beneficiaries and usually require a claims process to accomplish the transfer. Beneficiary designations are common with life insurance, annuities, retirement accounts, some financial accounts and certain business agreements or employee benefits.

If assets are still in the name of the Decedent individually, then a Probate process may be required. There are various summary administration procedures that may be used to collect an asset in the name of the Decedent, including small estate Affidavits for collection of personal property under an aggregate value of $150,000. Affidavits regarding real estate under a certain value, and various petitions for the determination of title to real estate of certain value.

Reviewing and analyzing the status of title of assets is essential in determining the correct procedures that need to be used in the Estate and Trust Administration. An experienced attorney is needed to guide the Trustee, or other fiduciary, in this process. Administration fees are charged on an hourly basis, and the highly-trained and experienced legal assistants of the Law Offices of Michael E. Graham are able to assist in these tasks at greatly reduced hourly rates, in contrast to an attorney rate, thereby ensuring lower overall costs. All work product is still reviewed and approved by an attorney.

A typical Trust Administration will involve several stages of work to be performed. Each Decedent’s Trust and Estate Administration will vary greatly in complexity and necessary work effort, which is not necessarily directly proportional to the value of the Decedent’s Estate, including the Trust. A comprehensive Administrative checklist would include the following:

  • Obtain, Review and Summarize Estate Planning Documents
  • Calendar Important Deadlines
  • Initial Conference with Client
  • Obtain Background Documentation for Assets of the Trust and Estate
  • Discuss Estate Planning Concerns for the Survivor Spouse or Others
  • Inventory and Valuation of Trust Assets & Liabilities
  • Analyze Special Concerns with Various Assets
    • Real Property and Reassessment for Property Tax Concerns
    • Closely Held Businesses: Corporations, Partnerships and LLCs
    • Publicly Traded Securities
    • Professional Businesses, Franchises and Licenses
    • Mortgages & Promissory Notes
    • Liabilities, Claims and Debts
  • Inventory and Valuation of Non Trust Assets
    • Life Insurance Proceeds and Other Death Benefits
    • Employee Benefits
    • Household and Tangible Personal Property
    • Valuable Collections
    • Annuities, Life Estates, Terms for Years, Remainders and Reversions
  • Engage Administrative Steps
    • Create Administrative Trust
    • Discuss Responsibility for Accountings to Beneficiaries
    • Review Personal Income Tax Filing Requirements
    • Discuss Responsibility for Fiduciary Income Tax Returns
    • Analyze the Need for any Court Proceedings on Specific Assets
    • Disposition of Non Trust Assets
    • Sales or Exchanges of Trust
  • Determine Applicability of Various Federal and State Transfer Taxes
    • Estate Tax
    • Gift Tax
    • Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax
    • Disclaimers
  • Analyze and Plan for Distribution and Sub Trust Funding
    • Income Tax Issues
    • Contingencies Prior to Any Distributions
    • Outright Distributions
    • Non Pro Rata Distributions to Multiple Beneficiaries
    • Sub Trust Funding and Formula Clause
    • Need for Retained Reserve for Closing Expenses on Distribution
  • Final Review to Determine Completion of Various Administrative Steps
    • File Claims for Reassessment Exclusion
    • Review with Trustee Systems Established for Ongoing Trust Administration
    • Review Duties of Trustee for Ongoing Sub Trusts
    • Discuss Trustee Compensation or Waiver
    • Determine if Need for Court Review and Approval of Trustee Action
    • File Final Tax Returns
    • Account For and Distribute Reserve for Closing Expenses

Further detailed information on Trust and Estate Administration can be found in the PDF Guides attached to the right of this Summary.