Trust and Estate Administration
When a North Carolina resident passes away, an estate administration must occur. The estate may be administered through a legal proceeding overseen by the county Clerk of Superior Court, also known as probate, or through alternative administration processes that avoid court supervision. Probate avoidance is often a major objective of our firm’s clients. A probate administration can be a long and costly process, especially when often simple estate planning strategies have gone unused. Revocable trusts, beneficiary designations, and pay-on-death contracts are often referred to as “probate avoidance” mechanisms. At North Carolina Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law, our firm provides comprehensive trust administration, probate, and post-mortem planning services to individuals and corporate fiduciaries tasked with administering an estate or trust.
Our lawyers provide decades of experience in assisting clients in all aspects of estate planning and administration. Having vast knowledge in all facets of trust and estate matters allows us to assist clients in making informed decisions regarding estate administration and planning. The most common services we provide include the following:
- Preparation of probate applications, inventories, and accountings with the Clerk of Court.
- Preparation and filing of all documents to formally conclude the administration of a decedent’s probate estate.
- Communications with the Courts, the IRS, the NC Department of Revenue, and the client’s accountant to ensure the estate or trust remains in compliance with required court and tax filing deadlines.
- Securing appraisals for investments, real estate, boats, airplanes, closely-held business interests, and other valuable property owned by the decedent.
- Disclaimer and other post-mortem estate planning techniques.
- Management of creditors’ claims and the recovery of debts owed and property owned by the decedent or the estate.
- Advice to our clients and their tax preparers regarding federal and North Carolina estate, fiduciary income, and other tax-related returns.
- Advice designed to mitigate exposure to federal estate tax, generation-skipping transfer taxes, fiduciary income taxes, and other potential tax liabilities.
- Guidance regarding the timing of the payment of estate and trust administrative expenses, and debts in order to minimize the exposure of an estate, trust, or the decedent’s beneficiaries to the imposition of tax liability.
- Advice, where appropriate, to surviving spouses, family members, or other beneficiaries regarding the most efficient methods of transferring asset ownership.
- Guidance on judicial and non-judicial modifications of irrevocable trusts and decanting to new trusts.
At North Carolina Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law, we understand losing a loved one is an emotional and stressful time. The stress of the loss of a loved one, combined with the tasks required to administer an estate and wind down a decedent’s financial affairs, can be overwhelming. Our significant experience in probate, estate, and trust administration can help relieve that stress and anxiety. Whether your loved one died with or without a will, we can guide you through the estate administration process and explain available post-mortem planning options to provide the best solutions for your loved one’s heirs.
The administration of a trust is distinguishable from the administration of a probate estate. Unlike the probate process, the court is not involved in a trust administration. The result is much faster access by beneficiaries to the decedent’s assets and almost total avoidance of the court-supervised probate process. However, trust administration can come with its own complexities, especially when multiple trusts exist, or if a decedent failed to transfer all his or her assets to the trust while he or she was living.
Estate administration, also referred to as probate, is a formal legal proceeding supervised by the Clerk of Superior Court. The probate process is required if a person dies owning property in his or her own name, or assets become payable to an estate as a result of a decedent’s death. Probate occurs regardless of whether a person does or does not have a will. If a person dies with a will they are said to die “testate.” If one dies without a will, they die “intestate.” Either way, a formal probate process is required.
The person appointed to administer an estate under a decedent’s will is called the “executor.” If a person dies intestate, the court will appoint an “administrator.” If a person dies with a will, but the named executor fails to serve, the court will appoint an “administrator C.T.A.” to carry out the terms of the will as if he or she were the named executor.
The office of executor or administrator is a fiduciary office. The person that qualifies is tasked to oversee the administration of an estate. The job comes with a great deal of responsibility and liability. Prior to distributing property, executors, and administrators must notify creditors, pay the descendant’s debts, file the decedent’s final personal tax returns, the estate’s fiduciary income tax returns, and, in certain cases, a federal estate tax return. In addition, the executor or administrator must complete the court’s required reports, inventories, and accountings. Once those are accomplished and approved, the distribution of assets to beneficiaries may occur. While a will can be a helpful tool to navigate the estate administration process, it is much more difficult to navigate the process without the assistance of such a document. A paramount question facing an administrator is, “who is entitled to the decedent’s property?” This question is answered by North Carolina’s Intestate Succession Act, which can be confusing to interpret.
The legal requirements to probate an estate can be time-consuming. If the estate administration process is handled incorrectly it can lead to delays in the heirs receiving assets to which they are rightfully entitled. In addition, executors and administrators can be personally liable for mishandling the administration of an estate. It is critical to have an experienced attorney help you navigate the estate administration process and avoid costly delays and mishaps.
Estate administration can be a daunting, time-consuming, and often thankless task. Having an experienced attorney to provide sound advice and innovative solutions can ensure the probate process is handled correctly and without unnecessary delays. Whether you need assistance in administering a trust or an estate, the attorneys at North Carolina Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law can navigate you through the process. To schedule a confidential consultation with one of our experienced estate planning and administration lawyers, call our office at (704) 248-6325 or complete our online form.
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