Estate administration is the process of transferring assets from the ownership of a deceased person to his or her heirs and beneficiaries. There are four (4)
methods that may be used to distribute a deceased person's assets: probate, beneficiary registration, trust, and small estate procedures.
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Our services in this area include --
- Probate administration
- Trust administration
- Small estate procedure
- Will and trust contests
- Representation of beneficiaries & fiduciaries
- Preparation of estate tax returns
- Probate avoidance
- Document review and consultation
- Asset protection
Keep in mind that more than one method of distribution may be used in each estate plan, but an asset cannot be distributed by using more than one method. A
simple case study will demonstrate this principle:
Doris executed a last will and testament in 2009. She had 3 children: Lucy, Paul, and Sarah. Doris named all 3 children as equal
beneficiaries in her will because she wanted them to receive the same amount of her assets. At the time Doris signed her will, she owned a home, a checking account, a car, and a life insurance
policy. She wanted to use her life insurance policy to pay for funeral expenses. Lucy was designated as the sole beneficiary of Doris' life insurance policy, and Paul was a joint owner of
the checking account because he helped Doris with her finances. Doris died in 2011.
How will Doris's property be distributed? The answer is that the home and car will be distributed in accordance with Doris' last will and testament by using
probate; the life insurance benefits will be paid by the insurance company directly to Lucy; and Paul will acquire sole ownership of the checking account. Only the assets in probate (the home
and car) will be used pay the funeral expenses, other creditors, and expenses of administration. Any money left over from the probate process will be shared equally by the children. They
will not share the life insurance or checking account even though that is what Doris intended.
This simple example illustrates how different methods of property distribution may be used to deliver assets, but that an asset cannot be distributed in more than one
way. In other words, documents don't always control how property will be distributed. It also demonstrates the importance of coordinating various elements of an estate plan with the
assets that a person owns.