Boston Probate and Trust Administration Services
Probate and trust administration is the processing of the assets and debts of a loved one following his or her death. Many people have had experience handling these matters following their parents’ deaths. Probate and trust administration can be complex and difficult for those unfamiliar with the procedures required and untrained in the law. If not done properly, you could even face personal liability.
Greater Boston Attorney Michael J. Hurley provides assistance for those executors, administrators and trustees who must administer a probate, estate, or a trust. Boston estate administration attorney Michael J. Hurley has more than 20-years of practice experience.
Massachusetts Probate and Trust Administration Services
Boston Probate and trust administration attorney, Michael J. Hurley can assist you with as much or as little of the probate and trust administration assistance as you need. He can, for example, prepare all documents required by the Court and make any Court appearances on your behalf.
Situations Requiring Probate
Probate court is often necessary when a person dies without a will and even if they do have a will — but don’t have a living trust. The legal purpose of the probate process is to have a deceased person’s assets distributed to the heirs.
The probate court is necessary so that banks, creditors, potential heirs and beneficiaries have a reliable way to determine is the deceased’s accounts and property are being handled properly.
Probate and trust administration attorney, Michael J. Hurley, can help you prepare all necessary probate court documents and can guide the estate “executor” or “trustee” through the process of getting the deceased’s assets and property transferred to the heirs and getting debts and taxes paid. READ MORE ABOUT PROBATE
Appointment of an Executor
The first thing the Probate court does is to appoint and “Executor” and give the executor legal authority (“Letters”) to sign on the accounts and property of the deceased. For small estates (those under $25,000), Massachusetts has done away with the terms “Executor and Executrix” in favor of Personal Representative or Administrator.
Probate Process is Complex, Time-Consuming and Expensive
If you don’t already, soon, you’ll wish there was a trust! Probate is a complex, time-consuming process no matter how small the estate. There are numerous forms to file, newspaper notifications to publish, various court appearances necessary, rules to follow for money handling, accounting, and the payment of debts, State and Federal taxes. There are detailed rules concerning the sale of real estate and the sale of other assets. It usually takes a year or more to complete the probate process. The last step is to petition the probate court for permission to distribute any remaining estate to the heirs remaining after payment of debts and taxes. If there had been a living trust, the estate could be fully administered in as short as a few months without any court proceedings, depending upon what is in the trust, while keeping family details, gossip, disagreements, and financial details OUT of the public record!
Disputes with Creditors and Heirs
The probate Court procedures have rules that allow creditors, tax authorities, and heirs to file claims and force various disputes to be heard and decided by the Court. Michael J. Hurley can assist in trying to avoid these types of problems to begin with, but when necessary can make the Court appearances in these situations.
Must the Estate Go Through Probate Court ?
Probate Court is NOT required if all assets had been placed into a living trust before the death of the person involved. However, if significant assets were never fully “funded” (title properly transferred) into a living trust, or if there is NO trust, then it is likely that the estate must go through lengthy probate court procedures. The Probate process is how the estate administrator is permitted to sell assets to pay debts and taxes and to distribute the remaining estate property to heirs. The “administration duties” are roughly the same for both probate situations and trust situations.
Handy CHART Steps Required for Probate or Trust Administration
The following chart is helpful outlining the possible steps involved in Probate and trust administration. Boston area probate and trust attorney, Michael J. Hurley is experienced in advising clients on each of these steps and in preparing or overseeing the proper legal documentation for each. Improper estate administration can lead to misunderstandings with creditors and heirs which in turn, can result in expensive litigation. These issues are sometimes referred to as “Will Contests” and “Trust Contests”.
Basic Probate and Trust Administration Responsibilities
For Trusts, the actual trust documentation must be consulted for exact instructions pertaining to the trust involved. That said, most trusts involve the steps below. For estates without a trust but with a will, the will is consulted, AND the Probate Court rules, laws, and procedures must be followed in similar fashion.
|♦ Authorize Executor or successor Trustee||If a probate we must petition Court to get the executor formally appointed. If a trust, appropriate paperwork will need to be submitted and approved to establish who is the successor trustee and to authorize the successor trustee to act on behalf of the trust and its accounts and properties.|
|♦ Notifications & Certificates||If a probate, all creditors and heirs must be notified in the manner provided by law. If a trust, the original death certificates and notices need to be sent as determined by what is in the trust.|
|♦ Formal Notice to Beneficiaries||If a probate, the beneficiaries will receive many notices. If a trust, a formal notice in the form required by the Massachusetts Probate Code must be sent to everyone mentioned in the trust. Failure to do this carefully could result in the Trustee being liable for years to come.|
|♦ New tax ID# & Banking||For Probates and Trusts, one or more bank accounts are often set up just for the administering of the estate. A new tax ID# must be requested from the IRS. All trust bank accounts might require the new ID# and new account signatures. The paperwork for all of this can be trickier than you might think, and often there are multiple correspondences with the IRS.|
|♦ Inventory of Assets||All accounts, personal property and real estate must be inventoried.|
|♦ Notify Creditors & Pay Debts||All creditors are required to be notified and bills need to be paid.|
|♦ Insurance & Pension Plans||Notification of death and paperwork may be needed to get distributed.|
|♦ Real Estate Titles||Documents need to be filed with the county recorder because of the death and the property tax situation considered. Property taxes could go up depending upon several factors and depending upon what is reported.|
|♦ business & investment changes||If the trust owns a business or shares in some type of investment involving other owners, then various documentation will need to be done.|
|♦ Appraisals||Appraisals of all real estate and valuable personal property are needed. Probate has special appraisal requirements.|
|♦ Trust allocations & reports to IRS||If the trust has assets from a husband and wife various accounting and allocations/reports to the IRS may be needed.|
|♦ property taxation issues||Determine property tax effects of the death on each parcel of real estate and consider options depending upon how property is to be disposed of.|
|♦ Income, estate and gift tax returns||For Probate & Trust administration, Income tax returns for the deceased person (and trust) must be compiled and filed. For complex or large estates, there might be the need to file estate and gift tax returns. Failure to report or meet tax deadlines can be very expensive.|
|♦ Accounting & distributions||If the Probate is a “supervised administration” or accounting is ordered by the Court, a ‘final accounting’ might need to be filed with the Court and approved before the remaining estate (less that liquidated to pay creditors and debts) can be distributed. Trust law generally requires a detailed formal accounting, at least annually, to all beneficiaries unless it is waived. After the final accounting, if there are no objections to the accounting, the trust estate is distributed to the beneficiaries according to the instructions in the trust.|
Attentive Estate Administration Can Avoid Lawsuits
Probate estate Executors and Trustees of trusts can be sued, removed from their position, and charged in court for errors and losses. In carrying out your duties, Executors and Trustees have must keep in mind exactly what fiduciary duties you owe to the beneficiary or beneficiaries of the estate or trust. First and foremost, a fiduciary owes a duty of loyalty to the beneficiary. Anything short of that is harshly frowned on by the Court.
Prudent attention to dates and timelines is wise. If the proper legal notices are sent out during the administration, legal cutoffs will be established to prevent lawsuits after certain time periods have passed. It is far better to be proactive in handling probated estates and trusts so that the beneficiaries get what they are entitled to as quickly as possible.
Finally, beneficiaries can be demanding, hard to deal with, and sometimes completely unreasonable. Probate and trust administration can take significant toll of those who have never been through the process.
Estate Administration Services Provided on an “As-Needed” Basis
Boston Probate and trust administration attorney, Michael J. Hurley welcomes the opportunity to assist clients with as much or as little of the probate and trust administration process as you need. For example, you could have us draft and submit required documents and petitions to the Court. You could ask us to appear on your behalf for all Court hearings. Micahel can obtain the IRS taxpayer ID and set up the new bank account required for estate management, keep accounting records, and oversee the compilation, filing, tax payments (if required) and meeting deadlines of the required State and Federal tax returns. With our experience in handling these probate and trust administration, we can help you avoid a lot of common problems which might otherwise lead to litigation.
Call me at (617) 712-2000 today for a free phone consultation or to schedule a reduced-fee initial sit-down meeting to discuss your probate or trust issues in my Boston or North Andover office, your home, your business, or even at your corner Starbucks.
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