Eventually every Estate Plan requires administration. What is administration in the context of an estate plan? To put it simply, it is the process that occurs after someone has passed. Many people neglect to prepare for their estate planning administration, making it difficult for their attorneys to take control of the situation. We do our best to know when a client has passed away, but sometimes it is impossible to know. That’s why it’s so important that you tell someone to contact your attorney’s office after your death, ensuring that your estate plan will be properly handled. With that thought in mind, today we’re going to run through a few pointers that should help you prepare for future estate planning administration.
- Introduce your attorney(s) to your family members or loved ones, especially those people who will be making decisions on your behalf if you become disabled and after you are gone. Families who schedule “family meetings” with their attorneys almost always find that (after the loved one’s death) the estate planning administration process moves quicker, is much less expensive and is far less stressful than it would have been otherwise.
- Tell your loved ones to promptly contact your attorney. Sometimes a client passes away but no one thinks to contact the individual’s attorney for 2-3 years. This can create a lot of stress and frustration. Although your family is not required to engage your attorney to help administer your estate plan, they will probably find it easier and more affordable to do so. For example, here at Parks & Jones we have capped our administrative fee, for clients who used our firm prior to their passing, to a point where we are at least 75% less expensive than most other attorneys.
- Be sure to keep your assets properly titled. When a client has assets that are not titled correctly, probate administration is often required. Probate is tedious, costly, and often quite stressful. To avoid this, try to review your titling issues annually with your attorney.
Meet with your attorney regularly. It is vital you meet with your attorney on a regular basis to check that your estate plan is not out of date and that it will be administered in the way you hoped and planned. If you haven’t met with your attorney for a review appointment in 3 or more years, now is the time to do so! When an individual passes away, there are many things that need to be handled for the surviving spouse and the beneficiaries of the deceased. This process, estate planning administration, can include:
- If the decedent has a will, it must be admitted to the probate court. In Missouri, a will is only valid if it has been admitted to the probate court within the year after the decedent’s death.
- If the decedent has a trust, sub-trusts will be created for the surviving spouse and/or beneficiaries of the decedent.
- Assets need to be gathered, inventoried, appropriately titled, appraised, and distributed to the beneficiaries.
- Notice to creditors must be properly published to begin the statutory clock, which bars creditors from making a claim on the estate after a certain time period has lapsed.
- Final tax returns must be handled, as well as any ongoing tax issues.
- Various other issues, which will vary from administration to administration. These are based on the type of assets the decedent owned, the value of the estate, and how the assets are owned at the decedent’s death.
So if you have not contacted an attorney since the passing of a spouse or loved one, please contact our office for a consultation. Also, if it has been more than 3 years since your last review, please schedule a review appointment to ensure that your estate plan is in order. By preparing for your estate plan administration ahead of time, you can ensure the payment of taxes is reduced (or even eliminated), your beneficiaries receive protection, and your assets are distributed properly. Most importantly, your final wishes will be fulfilled.