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Estate Settlement & Probate

Navigating Through the Estate Settlement Maze

What is “estate settlement?”

Estate settlement, sometimes called “probate,” is the process of transferring a deceased person’s assets to his or her beneficiaries in a tax efficient way. “Probate” is only a part of the process. It may be a very insignificant part in some estates. We need to deal with life insurance, retirement plans, annuities, “joint” assets, trusts and other “non-probate” assets as part of the estate settlement process.

Don’t you want to avoid probate?

Much of the anxiety about “probate” is caused by marketers of so called “living trusts” who prey on people’s fears.

There are several significant opportunities that could be lost if a person does not have at least some assets passing under a will These include using a fiscal year for income tax planning purposes and being able to cut off the claims of creditors within a predictable period.

To learn the truth about so called “living trusts,” read Exploding the Myths of Living Trusts.

You’re an Executor – Now what?

Your uncle died and made you his Executor. This may be your first time doing this job, with little or no training. What do you have to do?

In a nutshell, an Executor has four duties. He or she has to determine the nature, extent and value of all of the deceased person’s assets. Then he or she must ascertain what bills or debts the person had and make sure that all claims are legitimate. He or she then needs to pay those bills, file all estate and income tax returns and probate court documents. Finally, the Executor has to account for what he or she has done and distribute the assets to the beneficiaries.

To read more about an Executor’s duties, read What To Do If You Are an Executor.

Adding value to estates

Our Trustlawyer Team has settled over one hundred fifty estates. There are often subtle issues in the estate settlement process that provide opportunites for significant tax savings. Our experienece and in- depth knowledge of estate, trust and tax law allow us to recognize and capitalize on those opportunities.

To read more about some of our estate settlement succcesses, read Five Stories of Estate Settlement Success.

Keeping Executors out of trouble

As an Executor, you have a high level of responsibility to the beneficiaries. You would be personally responsible if, even through no fault of your own, you were to overpay taxes or allocate assets to the beneficiaries incorrectly. We can help to keep you safe. To see some examples of how we avoided potential traps, read Fixing Five Fiduciary Fumbles.

Got guns?

There are firearms in approximately 50% of American homes. Guns are the most highly regulated lawful product in the country. Conflicting Federal, state and local rules create a minefield for the uninformed. Do you know about the National Firearms Act? Would you know the value of a deceased person’s guns? Do you know how to lawfully transfer them to the beneficiaries?

We know firearms. We can identify them. We can determine their value. We can show you how to deal with them safely and pass them to your beneficiaries lawfully. To learn more about estate settlement for gun owners, read Fiduciaries and Firearms.