Probate and Trust Administration

PROBATE ADMINISTRATION.  What is “probate“?  When a person dies owning property in their names only, and they have not set up a revocable living trust, the title or ownership of their property must be transferred to another person or persons.  If they die with a will (i.e., “testate“), the property must be transferred to their beneficiaries named in the will.  If they die without a will (i.e., “intestate“), the property must be transferred to their heirs at law, which are designated by statute and are usually their closest family members.  In either case, only a court can authorize these transfers of property ownership.  That court is called the probate court.

The process by which you apply to the probate court to transfer the property is commonly known as “probate.”  If there is a will, the will is submitted to the court so that it can determine if it is a valid will, whether its has been superseded by a later will, etc.  The court appoints a personal representative (or “executor“), who is named by the deceased in the will, to handle the administering of the deceased’s “estate,” which refers to all the property the deceased owned at death in their name only.  Administration includes doing an inventory of the deceased’s property, and filing various public notices of the probate proceedings to reach anyone who has a claim against the estate or who objects to the will.

If there is no will, the court also appoints a personal representative (or “administrator“) to handle the estate.  That appointment can be contested among several family members, however, because there is no will nominating a particular person to administer the estate.

We represent personal representatives of probate estates in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and assist them in commencing the probate case, filing the necessary public notices and inventories of estate assets, and arranging for the final distribution of estate assets.  Because every estate is different, our legal fee depends on the extent and complexity of the particular probate case, so we normally undertake probate administration on an hourly-fee basis, rather than for a fixed fee.  Our hourly rate is $250.00.  We require an initial retainer of $4,500, and and we bill the client on a monthly basis during the course of the probate case from that retainer account.  Personal representatives find it very efficient and convenient to use our Virtual Law Office feature, which permits the secure and confidential exchange of estate documentation during the probate case.

 

TRUST ADMINISTRATION.  Some people plan ahead to avoid the expense and delay of probate by putting all of their property into a revocable living trust, instead of relying on a will.  Use of a living trust means that the person that you name as your trustee can administer your property upon your death without any supervision by the probate court.  This results in significant saving in both dollars (i.e, no court filing fees, etc.) and in time.  Whereas a typical probate proceeding can last a year or more, a trust typically can be administered in a matter of weeks or months.

We represent trustees of revocable and irrevocable trusts to administer the trust when it comes time to wind up the trust and distribute its assets to the beneficiaries named in the trust.  We undertake all of the steps necessary to terminate the trust according to the trust creator’s intent.  Again, because trust vary in complexity, we charge an hourly fee for trust administration ($200/hour), and require an initial retainer of $3500 – $9000 (depending on the complexity of the trust provisions).  A typical retainer is around $4000.

We know that you come to us in a time of stress, and strive to handle your probate proceeding or trust administration efficiently to minimize that stress.