ESTATE SETTLEMENT FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
We realize how emotional this time can be. It’s even that much more aggravating when lawyers ask you to sign legal documents, CPAs ask for information to complete the tax returns, and financial advisors want to reposition the investment portfolio. These are the people that you least want to deal with. But there are time deadlines, and what these professionals are asking you to do will likely have a real economic effect on you and the other beneficiaries. That’s where The Estate Settlement Program™ comes in. As your legal team we do the heavy lifting while you remain in control as the personal representative (executor) or as the trustee of the trust.
Assuming that your loved one’s assets were titled in his trust, you will avoid probate. But if you are the trustee, you shouldn’t distribute the assets before taking care of all of your legal responsibilities, such as clearing creditors, paying taxes and ensuring that the distributions are correct given your loved one’s most recent document and amendments. We will lead you through The Estate Settlement Program™, which is our trademarked 7 module process designed to meet all of your legal responsibilities.
There may be a little or there may be plenty, depending on each individual file. Once you assume the role of trustee, you have personal liability to fulfill all requirements imposed on you by the law. This includes making sure all of the assets are accounted for, tax cost basis is adjusted, properties sold or distributed, correct IRA RMDs established and a host of other issues. If, for example, you make full distribution to the beneficiaries closing out the administration before completing these tasks, and a legal obligation or unforeseen taxes arises, you are personally responsible to pay for that obligation out of your own pocket, even if the beneficiaries won’t refund you their proportionate share of the inheritance to pay for the obligation. The Estate Settlement Program™ walks you through this process to minimize the chance that these problems arise.
As trustee and/or personal representative, you have legal responsibilities to fulfill before making distributions to the beneficiaries. We inform all of the beneficiaries of the expected distribution timelines. Communication setting expectations is vitally important, and coming from your legal team it often bears more weight than coming from the family member chosen to act in a fiduciary role. This is where the 7 module Estate Settlement Program™ serves to let everyone know what steps need to be completed before the estate or trust is distributed.
The estate or trust will pay the legal fees and costs associated with the administration. The fees and costs are tax deductible to the estate.