The final part of the estate planning process is the administration of the estate after a person’s death. Administration can involve multiple estate planning tools, including wills or trusts, or submitting the estate to probate.
If a loved one named you as an administrator for an estate, you have an essential role to play. With a dedicated attorney by your side, you could carry out the wishes of your loved one and meet your fiduciary duty. Let a Boston estate administration lawyer answer your questions regarding the administration process.
The most common task in estate administration is probating a will, which requires an individual to serve as the personal representative (formerly called the “executor” or “executrix”) for the estate. If the will names a personal representative, it is that individual’s role to file the petition with the probate court and begin the process.
Sometimes, the will does not identify a personal representative. In other cases, the person named is either unable or unwilling to serve. When this happens, it is up to the court to select a representative for the estate. The court gives priority to the surviving spouse if they are willing to take on the role.
In addition to filing a petition initiating a probate case, the representative must also attach the last will and testament. They also must include a copy of the death certificate. During the administration process, the representative will pay any bills and distribute the assets to the beneficiaries.
The probate process will continue even if a person has died without a last will and testament in place. This process is similar in many ways to a probate case that includes a will that does not name a personal representative. The probate court must select an individual to administer the probate case, and the judge must give priority to a surviving spouse.
The major difference when it comes to probate without a will is the distribution of assets. Because there is no will to guide the court on the decedent’s final wishes, the judge must instead distribute assets based on the law of intestate succession. Intestate succession is the framework a court must use when determining which close family members recover the proceeds of an estate. It is the law of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, not the person’s last wishes, that will control the distribution of property.
The rules for intestate succession are complex. If the decedent has a surviving spouse, they typically inherit the complete estate. However, the estate could be split with any surviving children depending on the circumstances. A Boston attorney well-versed in estate administration could help you understand intestate succession in more detail.
There are essential administration steps for a decedent that has assets in a trust. Administering the trust can involve the probate courts, but typically trusts are designed to avoid probate entirely.
There are several duties associated with administering the trust. In addition to addressing any taxation issues or creditors, this process also involves transferring assets to beneficiaries. Trustees have legal obligations, called fiduciary duties, to follow the instructions of the trust. An estate administration attorney in the area could help you avoid a breach of fiduciary duty during this process.
The estate administration process is complex and can be confusing to navigate. Rather than taking this on alone, reach out to a knowledgeable attorney for guidance. A Boston estate administration lawyer could assist you throughout the process and ensure that the wishes of your loved one are properly executed after they pass. Call today to learn more about what we could do for you.