Wilson Ratledge regularly assists clients with estate and trust administration. Estate administration often deals with counseling clients through the probate process. Probate will be necessary if there are assets in the name of the decedent which require a title transfer that cannot take place without the clerk’s intervention.
The probate process involves the establishing of the validity of a Will, a determination of the decedent’s legal heirs if there is no Will, filing of an inventory of the decedent’s probate estate, payment of appropriate debts and distribution of property to those entitled to receive it. In the right set of circumstances, this may be a relatively straightforward process. In others, unforeseen issues or lack of pre-planning may create unanticipated problems. Whatever the situation, Wilson Ratledge helps clients throughout the process.
A properly funded and drafted trust will generally avoid probate. The trust usually need not be filed with the clerk or a court. Nonetheless, there are still steps necessary to administer the trust: beneficiaries must be contacted; assets must be gathered, valued and managed; potential creditors must be notified; debts, taxes and final expenses must be paid; and, ultimately, any remaining income and assets must be distributed in compliance with the trust terms.
If you have a trust, you are generally the initial trustee, so you can continue to manage your own financial affairs. If, at some point, you are unable to act due to disability or death, a successor trustee would step in and take your place.
However, successor trustees often lack the time, resources or knowledge to personally administer the trust, and therefore may call upon legal, accounting and investment professionals for assistance. Oftentimes, a corporate fiduciary (e.g., a trust company) is an excellent alternative to relying solely on busy family members or friends to serve as trustee. Wilson Ratledge can help your successor trustee(s) deal with the complexities of administering your trust. Please call our office and we will be happy to schedule a consultation with one of our Raleigh trusts attorneys, whether or not our office has drafted the original trust.