Overview of Probate and Administration
When a loved one dies, you may be left handling probate and trust administration issues—and there’s a good chance you find yourself at a loss for what options are legally available to you. Probate and trust administration involves managing assets other than your own. Regardless of the hat you wear—executor or trustee—you are given significant legal duties and responsibilities. These roles’ requirements and obligations (and their limitations!) are sometimes surprising and counterintuitive. It’s not uncommon to find it taxing to manage your own life and meet these additional expectations.
A Promise Law probate lawyer can “lighten your load” by making sure you understand your role and counseling and supporting you in completing your duties.
You May Not Need Probate
The most important thing for you to know about probate for a decedent’s estate is that you might not need it. The second most important thing for you to know is that there are no takebacks once you get appointed as a decedent’s estate administrator. The only way out is through the process. We recommend you consult with an experienced probate lawyer before you get officially appointed to determine whether probate is required. You may also find it helpful to watch our 3 Biggest Mistakes in Probate video.
Probate is the court-supervised process of settling a deceased person’s final financial affairs. Whether your loved one leaves a will or not, as the court-appointed personal representative—a term that covers people acting under a will as well as when the decedent died without a will—you are responsible for identifying and securing assets. After doing so, your first obligation is not to the beneficiaries (no matter how intensely they beseech you) but rather to pay the deceased person’s valid creditors in the proper amounts and the proper order. Not all creditors are created equal, especially if there is not enough money for all the deceased’s bills. Once you have settled all the estate debts, you can distribute what remains to the beneficiaries.
Personal representatives must also file an inventory with the court and annual accountings until the estate is closed. Unfortunately, Virginia’s formatting and reporting requirements are not straightforward: we have seen many intelligent and otherwise capable people fail to meet the court’s standards. Moreover, you can be financially liable for even unintentional errors.
Trust administration is the management of assets on behalf of the person who created the trust. While still-living people may create trusts, there’s a good chance you’ve found your way here today because the person who created the trust you’re dealing with is deceased. Trustees have various duties and obligations, including collecting, managing, investing, and distributing assets held within the trust. Generally, trust administrators must provide accountings to beneficiaries upon request and share other important information with beneficiaries. Serving as a trustee is a significant responsibility compounded by the fact that not every trustee’s duty is written into the trust document itself. You have many obligations that include handling affairs with care and keeping thorough records of your actions. Different rules and specialized procedures must be followed based on the trust’s terms and assets, and not all of them are obvious. Failure to properly handle trust administration can lead to conflict and potential personal liability.
How Promise Law Can Help With Probate and Administration
If you’re unsure what you need or where to begin, contacting a probate lawyer is an important first step. We offer a free consultation to help you. First, our paralegal will guide you in gathering the information necessary to determine your options. Then, once we have the details about your circumstances, we assess whether you need administration at all or your next steps if you’re already in the administration process. Sometimes all you need is a bit of guidance, and you may not need our services. But sometimes, you know that you need expert help and guidance. If that’s the case, we work with you every step of the way to make sure your responsibilities and obligations are clear and you take the proper steps at the right time.