Advising Families In Probate And Trust Administration
If you have been named the personal representative or executor of a family member’s will or a successor trustee of a trust, now is a time when you could benefit from legal advice.
With more than 50 years of combined experience, the attorneys of Richardson & Richardson, LLLP, can guide you through the legal steps of probate. We can also advise you concerning your responsibilities as a successor trustee of a trust. We have law offices in Tullahoma, Tennessee, and Stuart, Florida.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised transfer of title to property to assure that property of the deceased being transferred to his beneficiaries is free and clear of claims of the deceased’s creditors.
The probate process came to the United States from English law. It was important in medieval times for property to be probated in the king’s courts so that property would pass according to custom (which was advantageous to the king) even though the process was complex, time-consuming and costly. Unfortunately, instead of simplifying our system when the English simplified theirs, the probate process in the United States seems to have become more complex with the passage of time.
The probate process is governed by state statutes that guide the process from the opening of the estate until the estate is finally closed. Each step of the process is required in order to transfer your assets to your heirs. If you have a will, the will must be filed with the court so that the court can determine how the assets are to be distributed after all debts, court fees and attorney’s fees are paid by the estate. The probate proceeding is a public record, disclosing all of your assets, debts and the heirs of your estate, and is available to anyone who wants to view it. Probate fees are calculated on the gross size of your estate and are typically between 6 percent and 10 percent of the gross value of the estate.
Advising Successor Trustees
If your family member planned his or her estate with a trust, you can avoid probate. While the steps of transferring property in a trust are far simpler than probate, it is still important to understand your responsibilities to avoid potentially costly mistakes.
To avoid probate, your loved one must have properly transferred assets to the trust. Some assets such as life insurance policies and 401(k) accounts, are distributed by beneficiary designation. Our lawyers will review your family member’s estate planning documents and determine which assets, if any, need to go through probate.