The Wool Landon Approach To Probate And Trust Administration
There are roughly four ways that a person can transfer assets on death: by the terms of a validly created Last Will and Testament (“Will”), by the terms of a revocable trust that is also validly created, by the laws of intestacy, and by operation of law.
Operation of law includes beneficiary designations such as those you sign for retirement and insurance proceeds, pay on death (POD) and transfer on death (TOD) designations and survivorship provisions on accounts, deeds, and through some business documents. If the deceased’s primary testamentary document is a Will, it must be admitted to probate in a court proceeding. When the Will is admitted, the court appoints a personal representative (sometimes called an “executor”) to administer the Will; and, if the primary document is a revocable trust, the trust is automatically administered by the person or entity named to serve as trustee for the decedent.
Taking these backwards:
- Transfers by operation of law can be part of a well-organized estate and disability plan. Some people hope to avoid having to create an estate and disability plan by over reliance on these tools. Doing so may save on attorney’s fees for a while, but in the long run, relying exclusively on “self-help” is the source of expensive traps. Hire a lawyer and don’t rely on these tools without one.
- If there is no Will, the decedent is said to have died “intestate” and state law governs the administration and distribution of the decedent’s probate estate. The probate estate includes all assets that do not pass by operation of law or by a trust or other testamentary document.
- When a Will is your primary testamentary document, it is merely a placeholder for your distribution plans until you are dead. There is no “probate estate” until death. For some people, reliance on a Will alone is sufficient. Working with an experienced estate and disability planning attorney is the best way to decide whether a Will is sufficient for you.
- For many of you, it is best to supplement your Will with a revocable trust. A revocable trust is your alter ego until you are dead or unable to manage your own financial affairs. Then, without the need to ask the court for assistance, your plan can be managed by the person or entity you name as your successor trustee. Revocable trusts represent the best disability planning tool, may mean total avoidance of probate, create privacy, and usually do not require court assistance.
Wool Landon‘s Efficient Approach To Probate
When we prepare your estate plan, you and your family will have an excellent blueprint for a successful probate or trust administration on death. Even if we did not prepare your planning documents, we offer executors a reliable process with precise instructions and reliable support.
Processes are a hallmark of the Wool Landon approach to trust and estate administration. We use checklists, instruction letters, and a team of knowledgeable paralegals and lawyers to help executors proceed with confidence. As a Wool Landon client, we are your coaching team for your duties as personal representative (executor). Our clients understand the tax and reporting requirements of winding down an individual’s “business of life,” payments of debts and obligations, and the succession of assets to their selected beneficiaries. If you are a beneficiary who feels left in the dark, or thinks the executor is making mistakes or worse, we can help you too.
Trust Administration At Wool Landon
Once again, if you or your loved one was a Wool Landon client, you know that if you contact a lawyer and begin trust administration soon after death, it will avoid unnecessary expenses, result in a smoother and faster decedent’s administration. For one thing, Wool Landon clients are more likely to have properly funded their revocable trust during their lifetime, which avoids probate of the “pour over” Will. You also already have a trusted law firm whose team provides compassionate, knowledgeable guidance. If we didn’t prepare your plan, we treat you exactly the same way, offering caring and knowledgeable help.
Make no mistake, the revocable trust requires administration on death. Although in many cases, there is no requirement to involve a court in the administration, the revocable trust does not automatically transition wealth. It just avoids the probate process. Unlike probate, the steps for a decedent’s trust administration vary depending on the trust document itself, and the size and nature of the trust assets. The decedent’s creditors must be paid, their final personal income tax return must be filed, and in most cases, the decedent’s trust must file its own tax returns during administration.
There are a vast array of irrevocable trusts, such as the irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT), Wool Landon’s unique proprietary ILIT Plus, testamentary trusts, charitable trusts, intentionally defective grantor trusts and other irrevocable grantor trusts (IDGT’s and GRT’s for example), generation skipping transfer trusts (GSTT) and many others. These are created during life (inter vivos) or arose on the death of a prior generation. Each of these have administration requirements during life and on death. At Wool Landon, we represent trustees and beneficiaries with respect to irrevocable trusts.
Frequently Asked Administration Questions
- How much does probate cost? This depends on the size and complexity of the probate estate. In many states, including Oregon, the law firm cannot be paid out of the probate estate until a court approves our fees as being reasonable. After decades of obtaining rulings on the reasonableness of her fees, our founder Abby Wool Landon is confident, whether you are in a state that requires approval or not, Wool Landon attorney’s fees and costs will be fair.
- When should I call Wool Landon? Many families delay contacting a lawyer for so long that the administration becomes more complex than necessary. Delay is costly. In particular, a surviving spouse may put off administration of a joint trust because they are overwhelmed by grief and confusion about what to do, if anything, and when. Whether your loved one’s administration is through a trust, or a Will or by operation of law, contact a lawyer within a month of death or less. If there is a question as to who should be the executor, contact us as soon as that question arises.
- My loved one died, and I was the agent under her power of attorney. What now? Powers of attorney are void on death. Your authority ends when the person who appointed you, known as the “principal” is no longer living. Contact the named personal representative or trustee.
- What is a fiduciary? A fiduciary is person or entity that holds a legal or ethical relationship of trust with one or more persons. In the context of estate and disability administration, a trustee, a personal representative (or executor) of a probate estate, an agent under a power of attorney or health care advance directive are all fiduciaries. They hold assets and manage liabilities for beneficiaries and creditors of a decedent.
Probate and trust litigation refers to the legal proceedings when a will or other estate matters are contested. These cases address issues and disagreements that cannot be negotiated without the help of a judge stepping in.
Wool Landon will help you and your family members with a variety of probate, estate, disability and trust administration related disagreements, including:
- Wrongful death claims
- Negligence claims related to a decedent
- Misuse, misappropriations and delays in probate and trust administration
- Assisting with incomplete or incorrect real estate documents during administration
- Fiduciary disputes, that is disagreements among beneficiaries and the persons appointed to manage the assets and estate.
- Contested trust amendments
- Enforcement of disability documents
- Enforcement of trust provisions and protection of trust assets
Hiring attorneys with experience creating successful, uncontested estate plans and who specialize in probate and estate litigation is a benefit that can help you throughout your case. Wool Landon can handle the intricacies of these issues and will work with you to promote your best interests.
Work With An Attorney Who Has Your Best Interests At Heart
The probate and trust administration processes are not easy, especially when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. When a dispute arises, you can count on Wool Landon to handle your case with compassion and delicacy. Contact us at 503-447-8800 or online to schedule a consultation to learn more about your options.