Understanding Trust and Estate Administration
Trust and estate administration refers to the necessary procedures that an estate or a trust must undergo before the rightful distribution of assets to the beneficiaries can take place. These procedures are typically carried out under the direction of an executor or administrator for estate administration, and a successor trustee for trust administration, both appointed to their respective roles.
Estate administration involves managing the decedent’s assets as per their will, or in the absence of a will, in accordance with the laws of intestate succession. The executor or administrator takes charge of the estate’s administration, being officially appointed by the court.
On the other hand, trust administration refers to managing a trust’s assets prior to their distribution to the beneficiaries. Here, the successor trustee steps in to manage the trust following the death or incapacitation of the settlor, who commonly serves as the initial trustee.
Whether acting as executors or trustees, the shared responsibilities typically include:
- Establishing an inventory of assets and assessing their value at the time of the decedent’s death
- Safeguarding and maintaining the decedent’s property
- Settling any outstanding liabilities with the decedent’s creditors
- Presenting periodic accountings to beneficiaries
- Keeping beneficiaries well-informed about administrative processes
- Taking legal action on behalf of the estate or trust if required
- Ensuring timely distributions to beneficiaries
Executors and trustees both operate as fiduciaries, meaning they are legally obliged to act in the beneficiaries’ best interests. Failure to do so could result in legal action. To avoid such predicaments, it’s beneficial to engage experienced trust and estate administration attorneys who can offer guidance and assistance throughout the process. Executors and trustees are typically entitled to utilize estate or trust funds to pay for the services of attorneys and other professionals, provided their services are of benefit to the estate or trust.
For more information on how Williams & Hulst LLC can support your trust and estate administration needs, please get in touch with our team.