In the aftermath of a loved one’s death, grieving family members are faced with the task of settling the estate of the deceased. Depending on the amount and complexity of assets, the number of beneficiaries, and other factors, this can be a daunting task. The experienced probate and trust administration attorneys of Kuhn Rogers have decades of guiding Michigan residents through this process with both compassion and efficiency.
The way assets are titled determine how they must be dealt with after death. Assets held in the sole name of the deceased must go through the probate process. Assets in a trust must go through trust administration, which simply means that the trustee manages or distributes them in accordance with the trust document.
Both personal representatives of a probate estate and trustees of a trust are considered fiduciaries, which means that they are obligated to carry out their duties in the best interest of the beneficiaries. Failure to do so, even inadvertently, could result in personal liability for the fiduciary. For this reason, and to ensure proper and prompt administration, fiduciaries should have the guidance of experienced trust administration and probate attorneys.
Probate is the court-supervised process of administering the estate of a deceased person (decedent). An interested person, such as a family member or executor named in a will, opens a probate estate in the Michigan county in which the decedent last resided and a personal representative is appointed. If an heir or beneficiary does not promptly open an estate, a creditor may do so. The probate court will then appoint a personal representative to administer the estate. If there was a valid will, the personal representative will probably be the executor named in the will. The personal representative’s duties include:
The cost and duration of the probate process depend in part on the complexity of the estate, but also on the experience and efficiency of the personal representative. The knowledgeable attorneys of Kuhn Rogers can assist personal representatives in carrying out their duties in a timely and effective manner, avoiding costly mistakes and unnecessary delays.
Trusts are an essential component of many estate plans. In addition to allowing assets to bypass probate, trusts can be used to protect assets from creditors, minimize taxes, provide for individuals with special needs, support a favored charity, and safeguard assets for beneficiaries who may lack the maturity or ability to manage their own wealth.
The trust document that creates a trust also sets forth the terms for its administration after the creator of the trust dies or becomes incapacitated. The successor trustee must manage and distribute assets and income according to those terms.
Unlike probate, trust administration is not supervised by the court, but it is in many ways similar to administration of a probate estate. The trustee is bound not only by the terms of the trust document, but by the Michigan Trust Code, and must prioritize the best interests of the trust’s beneficiaries.
Depending on the nature of the trust and the assets it contains, administration may be brief and straightforward, or extended and complex. The experienced trust administration attorneys of Kuhn Rogers regularly advise trustees of a wide variety of trusts, as well as trust beneficiaries who have concerns about how the trust is being administered.
If you need experienced guidance in administering a Michigan estate or trust, or to protect your rights as a beneficiary, please contact Kuhn Rogers to schedule a consultation.