Probate Court & Trust Administration

Distributing assets after death...

Probate Court

Probate Court doesn't have to be expensive.

In many instances, individuals will have “will-based” planning for the collection, management, and ultimate distribution of property after death. Wills are excellent estate planning devices. They are flexible, inexpensive, and can last for many years unless the will maker’s intentions change dramatically.

The one thing to keep in mind is that anyone that dies with a “will and testament” as their primary estate planning tool, means that the “will and testament” would need to be “probated” through the county probate court. In most counties, probate court runs very well and will generally be no more expensive, in the long run, than any trust-based planning. Please keep in mind that “problems” can arise whether trust-based planning or will-based planning is used to accomplish estate intentions.

If probate court is necessary, the individual or entity named as the “personal representative” in the “last will and testament” needs to begin the probate process. The probate process can be started in several different ways. Most cases can be started by filing an “Application for Informal Probate.” If this process is used, there is very limited, or no court involvement. This process usually works very well in most instances. Of course, if someone wants to argue and fight, administration may have to go beyond this pretty simplistic administration, and it may be necessary to invoke the jurisdiction of the probate court.

In this post, I’ll assume there are not going to be a whole lot of problems and the case and the administration can be started simply, effectively, and relatively inexpensively. In that situation, this is the probate court form that will be filed with the court to commence informal probate administration.

Trust Administration

The very important duties a trustee performs for a trust after the death of the “trust maker.”

Before I name the important duties of a trustee after the “trust maker” has died and left a successor “trustee” to carry out intentions, I want to quickly explain what I mean by “trust administration.” Trust administration occurs after an individual has used “trust-based planning” to provide for the collection, management, and distribution of worldly goods after a death.

A trust is really a set of instructions that the “trust maker” has left behind for the management and distribution of assets after a death. The person charged with carrying out the instructions is the “trustee.” The trustee usually has a lot of legwork to do in collecting, preserving, managing, and then distributing trust assets. These are a few of the things an effective trustee needs to do…

  • Collect the trust assets from all sources.
  • Prepare an inventory of all the trust assets and provide that to the trust beneficiaries.
  • Manage the collected assets until the time is right for distribution.
  • Pay necessary and reasonable debts from the trust.
  • Pay any taxes due.
  • Prepare and file a final income tax return.
  • Obtain a tax ID number for the trust.
  • Pay any taxes due on account of trust income.
  • Keep the beneficiaries of the trust reasonably informed about the trust.
  • Render an accounting about the trust’s income and expenses to the beneficiaries at least yearly.

There are many more duties, some of them tedious, in managing trust property, collecting trust property, preserving trust property, and then distributing it to the beneficiaries.