Estate administration is the handling of an individual’s (decedent’s) probate affairs after their death. A decedent may be “testate” (they passed away with a valid Will in place) or “intestate” (they passed away without a valid Will in place). When an individual passes away owning assets in their individual name, and those assets do not pass to beneficiaries by means of a beneficiary designation (such as with retirement accounts or life insurance), or transfer on death or payable on death designation, and those assets are not held in a Revocable or Living Trust, those assets must pass through probate.
The probate process is dictated by the probate court of the county where the individual resided on the date of their death. When an individual passes away testate, the probate process involves submitting the Will to the appropriate probate court; the qualification of the Executor or Executrix by the probate court; providing notice to beneficiaries and potential creditors; paying the debts of the decedent and the expenses of administration; paying any inheritance tax or estate tax that may be due; filing the appropriate inheritance and estate tax returns that may be due in a timely manner (generally due 9 months after the date of death, depending on the state of residence of the decedent); preparing the final income tax return of the decedent, and any income tax returns for the estate; distributing the assets to the rightful beneficiaries; preparing the appropriate refunding bonds and releases; providing a detailed and accurate accounting of the estate to the beneficiaries; preparing the appropriate filings for the probate court, and closing the estate.
If the decedent passed away intestate, the probate process is more regulated through the probate court, and a bond will need to be posted by the administrator or administratrix approved by the probate court.
If the decedent passed away with a Revocable or Living Trust, the probate process is greatly minimized. However, the trustee must see to the administration and distribution of the trust pursuant to the terms of the trust, and ensure that the appropriate tax returns are filed.
Our firm can assist the families with the estate or trust administration, and with the preparation and filing of the appropriate tax returns.