Maryland Estate Administration Attorney

 

Being appointed as a Personal Representative or a Trustee can come as a shock. Most individuals discuss their wishes with the person they intend to appoint to administer their estate or trust. However, this may not always be the case.  Even if you knew you were chosen by a family member or friend to serve as a Trustee or Personal Representative, you mightstill feel overwhelmed as you begin the process of opening an estate or managing a trust.

If you need assistance, I encourage you to contact my office. I am an experienced Maryland Estate-Administration attorney and Maryland Trust Administration attorney. I am here to answer your questions and help you as you begin administering an estate or trust.

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What Are the Duties of a Personal Representative and Trustee?

While each administration is unique, some general duties and responsibilities are common for most probate estates and trusts. 

Generally, a Personal Representative of an estate must:

  • Complete and file petition to open estate

  • Locate the will, life insurance policies, financial statements, titles, deeds, and other assets

  • Provide notice of the estate to heirs and creditors

  • Identify, secure, and value assets of the estate to prepare an inventory

  • Review and pay claims and other debts

  • Prepare tax returns for the decedent and the estate

  • Disburse property to heirs

  • Prepare and file an account and other documents to close the estate

Trustees also have general duties they must perform in their role as Trustee for a trust. Some of the general duties of a Trustee include:

  • Reviewing the terms of the trust 

  • Identifying and inventorying assets

  • Paying debts and taxes

  • Managing the trust assets to maintain and increase the value of the trust

  • Completing tax returns, inventories, accountings, and other documents for the trust

  • Distributing the trust assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust

The above duties and responsibilities are not a comprehensive list of everything you would have to do as a Personal Representative or Trustee. As an experienced Maryland Estate-Administration attorney and Maryland Trust Administration attorney, I can help you determine what you need to do as an administrator and assist you in carrying out those duties and responsibilities. 

You need not handle everything on your own simply because you were appointed as an administrator. I can help you.

Are a Trustee and Personal Representative Considered Fiduciaries?

Yes, if you are appointed to administer an estate or a trust, you are considered a fiduciary. As a fiduciary, you must manage the assets and administering the trust or estate in the best interest of the beneficiaries and heirs. You hold a position of trust, andyou can be heldliable if you breach your position of trust. Trustees and Personal Representatives can be sued and held civilly liable if they mismanage an estate or trust. 

Some duties of a fiduciary include:

  • Administering the estate or trust to benefit the heirs or beneficiaries

  • Avoiding conflicts of interest

  • Conducting business with beneficiaries and heirs as in impartial administrator

  • Transacting business according to the duty of loyalty to do what is in the best interests of the beneficiaries and heirs

  • Never transacting business that is self-serving or self-dealing

  • Not using any of the property of the estate or trust for personal benefits while serving as the administrator

  • Protecting and securing the assets of the estate or trust

Being a fiduciary can be overwhelming, especially if you are not familiar with the administration process. Hiring an experienced Maryland Estate-Administration attorney can help you avoid mistakesthat might cause an allegation of breach of fiduciary duty.

Do Personal Representatives and Trustees File Tax Returns for the Estates?

Depending on the estate, you might have to prepare and file tax returns and other tax documents. For instance, a Personal Representative may need to file a final personal income tax return for the decedent. The PR may also need to file an estate tax return. 

Trustees are responsible for preparing and filing tax returns for the estate. They are also responsible for preparing and filing any other tax form that may be necessary to provide beneficiaries with the informationthey need to file personal tax returns.

Missing deadlines for estate and trust tax returns can cause costly fines and penalties. As a Maryland Trust Administration attorney, I assist administrators with monitoring deadlines for tax returns, gathering information for tax returns, and ensuring those returns are prepared and filed correctly.

Who Appoints a Personal Representative or Trustee?

A Personal Representative is the personin charge of administering a person’s estate after death. If the person had a valid will, the will typically appointsa person to serve as Personal Representative for the estate. Often, the will appoints an alternate Personal Representative if the first person named in the will as Personal Representative cannot or chooses not to serve. The probate court reviews the will and issues documents formally appointing the person to serve as the administrator of the estate.

Where the decedent did not have a will, someone must petition the court to be appointedas the Personal Representative such as a surviving spouse or child. If more than one person petitions to become the estate’s Personal Representative, the court conducts a hearing to determine who should be appointed to serve as the administrator for the estate.

A trust is handled differently from an estate. The trust agreement names a Trustee to manage the trust. A trustee named in a Trust does not require court approval to serve as the Trustee. Because a person may become ill, pass away, or choose not to serve as Trustee,  most individuals name a successor Trustee in the trust agreement.

Choosing a Trustee or Personal Representative is an important decision. There are many factors to consider as you determine who is the best person for this position. As an experienced Maryland Estate-Administration attorney, I can help you evaluate each factor, so you feel comfortable with your choice of an administrator.

How Does a Personal Representative and Trustee Manage the Assets and Pay the Bills for an Estate?

As part of the responsibilities of being a Trustee or a Personal Representative, you must review claims against the estate, object to invalid claims, and pay valid debts. You use estate funds to pay the debts, andyou are under no legal obligation to pay the debts from your personalfunds. Sometimes, you may need to liquidate assets to pay valid debts; however, this step typically applies more often when administering an estate. 

Most willsdirect the Personal Representative to pay the person’s just debts before any money or property is disbursedto heirs. Therefore, it is important for a Personal Representative to make a good faith effort to identify all debts of the decedent. Creditors may also file claims against the estate.

An issue that the estate administrator must be careful handling is a situation in which the estate does not have sufficient funds to pay all debts of the decedent. There is a specific procedure for determining which creditors take priority over other creditors. A Maryland Estate-Administration attorney can help you determine how to handle situations like this and other situations that may arise when paying bills and debts for a probate estate or trust.

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 Maryland Estate-Administration attorney or Maryland 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.

 

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