DC Estate Administration Attorney

 

Are you the Personal Representative of an estate or the Trustee of a trust? If so, navigating the duties and responsibilities required to administer and manage an estate or trust can be overwhelming. As an experienced DC estate-administration attorney, I can help you fulfill your duties without the stress and anxiety that many people experience as they are suddenly called upon to assume these roles. 

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What is the Role of a Personal Representative?

A Personal Representative is appointed by the probate court to administer an estate. If the decedent had a will, the will typically designatesa person to serve as the Personal Representative, even though the court must still officially appoint the person for the role. When a person dies without a will, an interested party may apply to be appointedas the Personal Representative for the estate.

The Personal Representative has numerous duties and responsibilities for the estate. Some of the common duties a Personal representative must perform include:

·      filing a petition to open the probate estate

·      securing assets

·      notifying creditors and heirs

·      reviewing claims and paying debts

·      filing tax returns

·      liquidating assets

·      distributing assets to heirs. 

The primary duty of a Personal Representative is to take whatever action is necessary to protect the estate and finalize the decedent’s affairs so it is consistent with the decedent’s wishes.

What Responsibilities Does a Trustee Have in Administering a Trust?

A Trustee is a personappointed to manage the assets held by a trust according to the trust agreement. The assets within a trust are held and managed to benefit the trust beneficiaries. A Trustee must manage the assets efficiently and in the best interest of the beneficiaries. He cannot place his interests before the interests of the beneficiaries. 

Some trust agreements give the Trustee broad powers to manage the assets at the Trustee’s discretion. Other trust agreements restrict the actions of the Trustee. A trust agreement can be simple, such as a trust agreement that holds a minor child’s inheritance until the child reaches a certain age. The trust agreement may simply state that the assets are to be used for the benefit and upkeep of the child in the Trustee’s best judgment. However, a trust agreement could be complex, requiring the Trustee to make periodic payments to the beneficiaries while managing numerous assets.

A Trustee may also be required to prepare periodic statements and accountings for the beneficiaries. Sometimes, Trustees may also need to prepare and file tax returns and other tax documents.

A DC trust administration attorney can help a Trustee ensure that he or she performs all duties required under the trust agreement to avoid problems and issues.

What Is the Fiduciary Duty of a Trustee or Personal Representative?

A Personal Representative and Trustee havea fiduciary duty to the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate or trust. A fiduciary holds a position of trust and holds and manages assets that belong to another person in a manner that is in the best interest of that person. 

For example, a Personal Representative must administer the estate for the decedent’s heirs efficiently.  The person must secure assets, pay just debts, and distribute assets, according to the decedent’s will and probate laws. If the Personal Representative mismanages the estate by unjustly delaying the administration of the estate, failing to keep adequate books and records, failing to pay valid debts, or converting estate assets for personal use, the Personal Representative could be held civilly liable for breach of fiduciary duty.

Likewise, a Trustee must manage the assets of a trust for the best interest of the beneficiaries. The Trustee must manage the assets according to the terms of the trust too. If a Trustee manages the assets in a way that diminishes the value of the trust or manages the trust to benefit the Trustee instead of the beneficiaries, the Trustee could be guilty of breach of fiduciary duty.

Let me help you perform your duties and responsibilities as a fiduciary to help avoid any allegations of mismanagement.

Who is Responsible for the Assets in a Probate Estate or Trust?

The Personal Representative identifies, secures, and distributes the assets in a probate estate. During the administration of an estate, the Personal Representative may have to obtain the value of assets or liquidate assets. The Personal Representative must act in the best interest of the heirs when valuing or selling assets.

A Trustee manages the property held by the trust to benefit the beneficiaries. Depending on the assets held by the trust, a Trustee may not need to do very much to manage the assets beyond tracking the income from the assets. Howeverwith stocks or other assets, the Trustee may have to invest the trust assets to make money. A DC trust administration attorney can provide guidance and legal advice to assist the Trustee in ensuring he or she manages the assets in a manner that is consistent withthe terms of the trust agreement and in the best interest of the beneficiaries.

If a Personal Representative or Trustee mismanages assets or fails to protect the assets of the estate or trust, that person could be held liable for any losses or damages incurred by the heirs or beneficiaries. 

How Does a Trustee or Personal Representative Document Actions?

A Personal Representative must submit accountings and reports to the court during the administration of an estate. Trustees are usually required to submit periodic statements and reports to the trust beneficiaries.

To ensure that records are accurate and complete, a Trustee or Personal Representative should keep receipts and copies of all statements related to income and expenses. Recording each transaction is essential for tracking income and expenses. Using online software can make it much easier for someone to keep detailed records when administering an estate. However, hard copies of documents should also be available to back up information entered into a software system used to track income, expenses, and transfers.

DC Administration Attorneys Can Help You with Your Responsibilities as a Trustee or Personal Representative

Working with a DC estate-administration attorney is usually a good idea if you have never served in a fiduciary capacity or you are not familiar with the duties and responsibilities of a Personal Representative or Trustee.

Experience You Can Trust

If you have questions about administering an estate or a trust, I encourage you to contact my office to discuss your concerns. Being responsible for assets in an estate or a trust can be overwhelming, especially if you are not familiar with estate law, trust law, and laws governing fiduciaries. If you need a trusted DC Estate-Administration attorney or DC Trust Administration attorney to help you navigate complex administration laws, contact my office to schedule a time for us to discuss your situation, questions, and concerns.