During one of life’s most difficult times, you’re not alone in managing the legal, tax, and financial affairs to best protect your family. That is why we’ve developed The Estate Settlement Program® Guide – our unique legal process designed to provide you with comfort and clarity over the issues that worry you today. The program consists of seven modules that we work through together.
The Estate Settlement Program® Snapshot is an overview of the legal, tax and financial road that we will travel together following the loss of your loved one. This module will assist you in getting familiar with your role and responsibilities when completing the estate settlement. To begin, we will meet to:
- Review The Estate Settlement Program™ Guide seven module process
- Complete the “Your Goals and Concerns” Worksheet
- Review your duties and responsibilities as personal representative/trustee
- Review The Getting Started Checklist™
- Confirm this firm’s engagement as your attorney
- Meet your Team
The governing documents such as the will and trust, legal filings and official documents necessary to properly administer your loved one’s estate/trust.
In any estate administration, the legal documents govern the wishes of the deceased and determine the ultimate outcome of who benefits from the estate/trust. Moreover, a myriad of notices and other court documents must be filed under Massachusetts law. This module of the Estate Settlement Guide® serves to organize these important documents.
The marshalling and identification of all of your loved one’s assets. This includes those owned individually, in trust, or in joint name with someone else. Implementation of new tax cost basis and discussion of prudent asset management during the course of the administration with members of your financial team.
One of the first responsibilities of the personal representative/trustee in an estate administration is to marshal the assets, obtain date of death values (for tax reporting purposes) and to determine whether the assets and portfolio should be adjusted to meet the needs of the estate and its beneficiaries. Where the assets are located, how they are titled (owned), and what they consist of drives almost all of the decisions to be made during the course of the administration.
The identification of any reasonably ascertainable creditors, the legal notifications required to those creditors, and the clearing of any claims that they may have.
The personal representative/trustee has a primary duty to first notify and clear creditors prior to making distributions to beneficiaries. This stage of the process leads you through the legal requirements to satisfy one of the most important obligations.
The identification of any gift, estate and income tax returns that may be necessary to be filed, as well as planning for any IRA or 401(k) Required Minimum Distributions. Includes coordination with the CPA and financial advisors to minimize taxes and achieve family objectives.
This stage of the process concentrates on a very important element of any estate administration - the proper reporting and payment of taxes. It will be important to have a qualified tax return specialist on the professional team – preferably a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who is well versed with income, gift, estate and generation skipping transfer tax reporting.
May include both ongoing and necessary income distributions to the surviving spouse (if applicable) and/or other beneficiaries during the course of the administration. The distribution of specific bequests, including tangible personal property, and ultimate distribution of the estate/trust to the beneficiaries and/or establishment of continuing trusts for their benefit.
In order to protect the personal representative/trustee from liability, and to comply with the law, an accounting is prepared and is delivered to the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries are asked to review and approve the accounting, from which point distributions are made. Some distributions may be outright where others may be held in continuing trusts. This module of the Estate Settlement Guide™ serves to lead you through this process.
Review family’s ongoing planning opportunities. Complete any remaining open points and answer final questions.
We’ve made it through this Estate Settlement Program™ and have successfully completed what has probably been for you an emotional and arduous process. Congratulations! You may have open points or questions going forward, and there may be estate, tax and financial opportunities available to take advantage of. This module serves to organize your thinking and clarify outstanding points.
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