Once a loved one has passed away, regardless of whether they died with a will, trust, or no planning at all (“intestate”), their estate needs to be administered. Estate administration is the process of closing down the decedent’s estate meaning transferring property and assets to heirs and beneficiaries, paying off any debts, and closing accounts.
Trusts are now the more popular and efficient way to distribute assets to beneficiaries upon death. If the decedent had a trust, the administration is relatively simple. The name of the trustee on the titling of their assets needs to be changed to the successor trustee, and the new trustee will gather their assets, pay their bills and taxes, account for any expenses, and distribute the assets. This process typically takes a few months but can take longer if the assets or the family’s situation require it.
For these clients, I am here to guide them through the trust administration process, to whatever extent they need or desire.
If you have a standard will or no will, when you die, your estate will have to go through probate. Probate is the process where the court supervises distribution of assets and the paying of debts of the decedent.
As an estate planning attorney, I see my primary job as avoiding entanglements like probate by providing excellent planning for my clients by creating plans using trusts and minimizing the use of wills. You can avoid probate by using a trust, the most efficient way to distribute assets to heirs and beneficiaries.
These days, the main benefit of using a trust instead of a will is to avoid probate. In California, probate can take a long time, be expensive, and your private information becomes public. With proper estate planning, upon your death, your loved ones can focus on grieving rather than taking care of all the requirements of probate or getting locked in litigation for months or years.
Having said this, I often have the family of a decedent come to me needing help with how to administer the estate when the decedent only had a will or had no will at all. In these cases, I am well prepared to assist them with probate and the decedent’s estate.
For these clients, I will file the probate action and guide them through the entire process including gathering assets, valuing the assets, identifying beneficiaries, identifying creditors and paying debts and bills, and ultimately distributing the assets.