If you are seeking help with a probate or trust administration matter, then that means you’ve likely lost a loved one or someone close. This is a difficult time as you grieve and move forward with the many “to-do” items that have been added to your plate.

As an estate planning firm that regularly helps people handle issues around probate and trust administration, we understand the big job that lies before you. Through our efforts, we hope to make things a little easier and a lot smoother.

We regularly assist trustees, executors, guardians, and other fiduciaries in navigating their duties and responsibilities. We work with you to minimize personal liability that can result from an honest mistake during the administration of a trust or estate. Our systematic approach provides  peace of mind as you complete your duties. You will not be alone in the process, and our experience will guide you. This may be your first time acting as executor or fiduciary, but it is not your first time going through the process.

Continue down the page for more information about the specific process of probate and trust administration…

Probate

What is probate and when does it occur?

Probate is the court-supervised process by which an estate is divided among the proper beneficiaries. Probate can be the primary process used in settling an estate if the person did not have a trust. However, probate can also be related to a trust administration. This occurs when assets are not properly funded to the trust while the trustmaker is living.

We work with clients in Missouri and Kansas probate cases, providing support from the initial filing of the will through the final order of the probate court closing the estate.

Probate can take many forms. It can be a streamlined process for smaller estates, or it can become a complex, supervised process which is lengthy and costly.

If the deceased does not have a valid will, the probate process includes filing an intestate petition with the court and establishing an administrator to settle the estate according to the intestate laws of the respective state.

How We Help During the Probate Process

Nearly every probate case includes the following elements. However, each case is unique, so the process is not limited to the following items. If you hire us to help with your probate case, we will:

  • Counsel the family on the requirements of the probate process.
  • Prepare and file the initial probate pleadings for the decedent’s case.
  • Post notices to publications and notify known creditors of the decedent for the court-appointed executor or administrator.
  • Prepare an inventory of the estate assets including a valuation and appraisal of assets as needed.
  • Assist the executor to secure all property, and properly protect the property until the estate is closed by the court.
  • Pay all debts (as is possible from the estate) and prudently manage estate expenses.
  • Handle the resolution of claim disputes for the estate.
  • Provide a final accounting of the estate for the probate court.
  • Where necessary, proceed with probate litigation or defense of the estate against claims on the estate.
  • Coordinate the preparation of tax returns either with an accountant team member or with other tax professionals.
  • Finalize the actual distribution of the estate after the final ruling of the probate court.
  • Provide a systematic way to support the executor or administrator in finalizing the probate case with the court.

Trust Administration

What is trust administration and when does it occur?

Trust administration actually begins at the time a trust is created and funded, and then continues until the trust terminates. The trust typically terminates either by the express terms of the trust or upon distribution of all the trust assets to the beneficiaries.

In order to accomplish the objectives of the trust, it is important that trusts are properly administered, both while the trustmaker is living and after the trustmaker has passed away.

The most common challenge while the trustmaker is still living is the failure to properly fund their assets into the trust. Because this is so important, we work closely with our estate planning and asset protection clients to make sure this process is properly completed during their lifetime.

Upon death, or mental disability, the successor trustee becomes legally obligated to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and in accordance with the terms of the trust. This is a very serious job and trustees have a “fiduciary” duty under the law. For this reason, it is important that trustees become familia with their duties and obligations. A fiduciary who breaches their obligations may be held personally liable for any loss or injury that occurs to beneficiaries. This is why it is so important to work with an experienced attorney that you trust during this process.

At The Bell Law Firm, we provide guidance for trustees along with a systematic way for the trustee to offload their responsibilities for proper execution. We also proactively work with other professionals involved in the trust administration to make sure the objectives of the trust are accomplished.

How We Help During the Trust Administration Process

If you hire us to help with your trust administration, we will do the following (but not be limited to these things, depending on what’s required for your unique situation):

  • Review the trust, the pour-over will, and any other documents to ensure tax requirements are met and other time sensitive items are completed.
  • Complete all probate filings and post any required notices to creditors, publications, and other key groups.
  • Prepare an inventory of trust property, any of the decedent’s property passing outside of the trust, and any property that may transfer by will in probate.
  • Establish date of death values, and arrange appraisals and valuations.
  • Compile a list of all debts at the time of death and notify known creditors.
  • Oversee prudent management and protection of property, including maintenance and insurance of property.
  • Pay debts, trust expenses, and other estate costs on behalf of the trust.
  • Coordinate the preparation of tax returns either with an accountant team member or with other tax professionals.
  • Prepare deeds for real property transfer consistent with the trust distribution plans and guidance
  • Handle allocation of assets to subtrusts, along with the eventual transfer of property to subtrusts as provided with the trust distribution terms.
  • Make trust distributions to beneficiaries and provide reports and communication with the trustee and beneficiaries throughout the process.

If you need assistance with a probate case or trust administration, give us a call at 913-345-2323 to schedule your no-cost consultation. We’d be happy to speak with you and see how we might be of assistance.

 

Practice Areas

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Probate / Trust Administration

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