Probate & Trust Administration

Probate is the court-administered proceeding to settle a decedent's estate. Generally speaking, the process includes appointment of a personal representative, notification of heirs, beneficiaries and creditors, gathering and management of assets, settling creditor claims, and then making distributions. The proceeding from start to finish can last several months or several years depending on the myriad of issues that can be raised and litigated in the Probate Court. Probate is not always necessary, however, particularly where the decedent had a trust-based estate plan.

Trust administration is usually simpler and faster than probate. If the decedent passed away with a trust-based estate plan, probate will be avoided in most instances provided the trust was properly funded during the lifetime of the decedent. Despite these advantages, trust administration is not without potential pitfalls for the inexperienced, particularly where the estate plan contemplates funding of an estate tax bypass trust. Successor trustees should always consult with competent legal counsel immediately after the death of a trust principal.

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