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Probate & Estate Planning

probate and estate planning - jv law offices

Trusts and Estate Planning

Secure your assets and protect your future by creating a plan for your estate and your loved ones. When people think of estate planning, they often think of a revocable living trust. However, while a revocable living trust is the foundation of most estate plans, a stand-alone trust does not provide a comprehensive plan to protect your assets and wishes upon your death or incapacity. A complete estate plan also needs to include pour-over wills, durable powers of attorney, advanced health care directives, and other related documents depending on your wishes, needs and specific family situation.

Estate planning documents are more than just legal paperwork. They express how you wish to care for your loved ones upon your death or incapacity. In crafting a comprehensive estate plan, you decide who will care for your children in the event of your death, you determine who to trust with medical decisions if you become incapacitated, and you arrange for how your loved ones will receive most or all of your assets upon your passing. Finally, executing a proper estate plan can minimize taxes and the legal fees that would be required to be paid if no estate plan existed.

We understand that as you life changes your needs might also change and you may need to update your plan. Therefore, we not only help with preparing the initial documents for your estate plan but we also assist clients in modifying their existing estate plan.

Trusts Administration and Probate

Trust and Probate administration are very similar in that both requirements for a trustee(s) or personal representative(s) or executor to document and secure the assets and contact the heirs or beneficiaries and pay creditors.

Trust Administration follows when a loved one passes away, and that person or persons has/have a living trust. The trust will need to be administered to settle the estate left behind by the deceased according to the trust document. When the original creator(s) of the trust passes the person(s) named in the living trust as “successor trustee(s)” become(s) the appointed trustee(s) of the trust and it is their responsibility to complete the tasks required to administer/settle the trust. These tasks can include:

  1. Providing the legally required notices and filings;
  2. Arranging the assets of the estate;
  3. Determining and paying outstanding debts and/or taxes of the decedent and his/her estate;
  4. Distributing the assets to the named beneficiaries according to the terms set forth in the trust.

Although one of the main purposes of a trust is to avoid the costs and formalities of court, the tasks above are still some of the responsibilities that need to be completed when settling a trust. Our firm understands that this process can be overwhelming for a successor trustee, therefore, our firm provides trust administration services to put you at ease through this difficult time and to ensure that all important steps and all requirements are being met.

Probate Administration is the court-supervised administration of a decedent’s estate. This process usually occurs in instances when the decedent leaves a will or dies intestate (without a will). This process, like in the trust administration process, serves to transfer assets and resolve debts so that the decedent’s assets can be transferred to the rightful heirs/beneficiaries according to a will or intestate succession.

The probate administration begins with the filing of a petition for probate at the Superior Court in the county in which the decedent lived. This petition provides details about the person who died, details about the executor and heirs, the size of the estate and whether a bond will be required. The petition is just the beginning in a probate administration case. Several issues can make the probate process considerably more complex. For instance, issues where heirs and/or beneficiaries contest a will, outstanding debts or taxes that may force the liquidation of assets or determining the heirs of an estate when no will exists based on intestate succession. Consequently, it is imperative that you contact an attorney who can help you maneuver your way through the probate process.

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