Probate and Trust Administration

Members of Taft’s Probate and Trust Administration practice guide executors and trustees through the process of administering property in estates and trusts. Attorneys handle court filings, tax analysis, and tax return preparation, creditor issues, retirement plans and IRAs, and life insurance, in addition to other aspects of making sure that the intentions of the individual who established the estate plan or trust are carried out.

When a client takes on the responsibility of serving as an executor or trustee following the death of a family member or friend, the task can seem overwhelming. Our attorneys work to lift this burden from the client to the greatest extent possible.

Probate Steps
A typical engagement in the estate context begins with one of our probate attorneys meeting with the executor and family (if desired) to discuss the process and steps to take. These steps typically include determining what property is in the estate. This might include “probate” property, which generally is property titled solely in the deceased person’s name. This probate property will pass under the will and go through the probate court process.

The estate typically includes “non” probate property as well, such as jointly held property, trusts that were funded before the individual died, and IRAs and life insurance. This non-probate property does not pass under the will.

Our attorneys will explain this to the executor and trustee so they have a firm grasp of how the estate’s documents (such as the will, trusts, and beneficiary forms) will actually work. Working with highly skilled paralegals, our attorneys advise clients on valuation of assets, tax elections, and estate and income tax issues, payment of expenses and handling of creditor claims, funding of trusts, and advising on trustees’ responsibilities under the Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota Trust Codes and other pertinent law. The necessary court documents are drafted, including appointment of the executor, court inventories, and court accounts. We also prepare the estate tax returns and any needed income tax returns for the estate and related trusts.

Special Techniques
Our probate attorneys also advise on techniques that can be used after an individual has died to reduce taxes or otherwise adjust a plan where appropriate. An example of such a technique is a “disclaimer” that is used when a beneficiary decides not to accept a bequest and allows that property to pass to the next in line under the will or trust. This might be done for tax planning or because the beneficiary does not need the property and wants his or her children or grandchildren to receive the property instead.

Attorneys also administer trusts that have been created under a will (“testamentary” trusts) or by trust agreement during a client’s lifetime (“intervivos” or “living” trusts). Trustees frequently have questions, particularly when they have taken over responsibility for a trust, about what they can and cannot distribute to beneficiaries, what the law provides as to investment of trust assets, and tax payment responsibilities.

Types of Trusts
Typical trusts include irrevocable life insurance trusts, gifting trusts for the benefit of children and grandchildren (the latter are also called “generation skipping” trusts), and “credit shelter” (also called “A/B” trusts). Throughout the representation of executors, trustees, and other fiduciaries, our attorneys understand that they are privileged to handle a family’s most sensitive personal and financial matters. We know that we often are doing so at a very painful and sometimes profound time for their clients. This sensitivity in working with clients is a hallmark of our group.

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