Orange County Post Death Trust Administration Attorney
Estate planning is essential for everyone, not just the extremely wealthy. Many people make the mistake of believing that a simple last will and testament is sufficient for ensuring a legal, binding, and agreeable distribution of their assets after death, but this is often not the case. Trusts offer more robust legal protection for trust creators and peace of mind to their beneficiaries. However, trust administration can be more complex than some trustees realize, and disputes may arise during the trust administration process.
Legal Counsel for Orange County Post-Death Trust Administration
An Orange County post-death trust administration attorney can be a valuable asset to a trustee or a beneficiary, ensuring the trust in question is handled appropriately, that the trustee manages their fiduciary duty appropriately, and those beneficiaries have the guidance they need to navigate complex trust-related financial issues with confidence. The Flanigan Law Group has years of experience providing comprehensive post-death trust administration services to Orange County, CA, clients, and we’re ready to put this experience at your disposal.
Why Should I Hire an Orange County Post-Death Trust Administration Lawyer?
When an individual dies in California, their death starts a series of legal proceedings known as probate. The probate process is the legal mechanism for assigning new property ownership rights over the assets and property of the deceased. When the deceased individual does not have any estate planning documents in place at the time of their death, the probate process follows California’s law of intestate succession. The state effectively handles the distribution of the deceased’s assets and property to their legally designated beneficiaries.
A trust is just one possible option for streamlining this process. Instead of a lengthy and contentious probate case, the deceased’s family can refer to the contents of their deceased loved one’s trust for instructions regarding the division of their property and assets. However, the trust must be legally enforceable to have the intended effect. Hiring an Orange County post-death trust administration lawyer is an effective method of ensuring your loved one’s wishes are respected and for your family to avoid much of the stress and expense typically involved in the probate process.
What Do Orange County Post-Death Trust Administration Lawyers Do?
When an individual dies with a trust in place, the trustee named in their trust takes legal responsibility for their estate and has the duty of disbursing the contents of the trust in accordance with the trust creator’s wishes. The trust creator, also known as a trustor, must name their preferred trustee within the trust. It’s common for trustors to name several candidates in order of preference. If their first choice of trustee does not want the responsibility of acting as trustee or is unable to fulfill their legal duties, the second candidate will fulfill the role. An Orange County post-death trust administration attorney effectively acts as a legal guide for the trustee and offers peace of mind to beneficiaries of the deceased. The trust administration lawyer will carefully review the contents of the trust and help the trustee manage their fiduciary duties.
Working with an experienced Orange County post-death trust administration lawyer can significantly reduce the time required for trust administration. They can also ensure the trustee fulfills their duties in good faith, significantly reducing the chance of disputes arising. It’s also possible for an Orange County trust administration lawyer to help beneficiaries address disputes appropriately when they arise.
How Much Does a Trust Administrator Cost?
Most trust attorneys working in Orange County offer reasonable fee schedules. However, most trust administration attorneys charge their clients by the hour, so the longer they must spend working on a case, the more expensive their services will be for the client. Therefore, before agreeing to any attorney’s services, make sure you fully understand their billing practices and are comfortable with the projected cost of their representation. Ultimately, hiring an experienced Orange County post-death trust administration lawyer can be an effective means of minimizing your legal costs as well as that of your family, especially when you can avoid much of the probate process.
How Do Trusts Work in California?
A trust is an estate planning document that effectively places the trustor’s property and assets into a separate account known as a trust. The trustor names a trustee to manage the trust, and this individual will take legal control over the trust’s contents upon the trustor’s death, or upon creation of the trust, depending on the type of trust the trustor has elected to create. It’s important to note that this transfer of ownership does not simply mean the trustee now owns all of the trustor’s property and assets; their position as trustee is contingent upon their agreement to distribute the contents of the trust and manage the legal processes thereof following the trustor’s wishes.
Generally, there are two types of trust an individual may create. First, a revocable trust provides greater flexibility but not many tax benefits. With this type of trust, the trustor remains the owner of the trust’s contents until their death, and they can modify the trust, add to it, and change various aspects of the trust up until death. However, when they die, the contents of the trust become subject to estate taxes since those contents are legally qualified as their property under California law.
The other option is an irrevocable trust. As the name implies, an irrevocable trust cannot be modified once created, and the trustee assumes complete control over the trust’s contents upon creating the irrevocable trust. It cannot be modified or changed in any way after creation, but because the property contained within the irrevocable trust no longer qualifies as the trustor’s property, this type of trust can shield its beneficiaries from many estate taxes.
An Orange County post-death trust administration attorney can assist their client with handling both types of trust. However, both types of trusts offer advantages and drawbacks to trustors, and both can generate complex legal disputes during the administration process. Therefore, when you choose the Flanigan Law Group to assist you with trust administration, we will begin with a careful analysis of the trust in question to ensure we provide carefully tailored legal planning counsel through every phase of your case.
What Are a Trustee’s Legal Duties?
A trustee has several critical legal duties they must fulfill upon the trustor’s death. First, they are responsible for accurately recording all transactions related to the trust. This includes tracking funeral expenses and other expenditures from the trust itself and distributing assets and property to the trustor’s beneficiaries. The trustee must also contact and notify beneficiaries of the trustor’s death and their ownership rights over the contents of the trust. Simply put, the trustee is legally responsible for effectively managing the trust. Finally, they must also meet various legal deadlines pertaining to notification of beneficiaries and settling of the estate in question.
Some of the responsibilities included in trust administration are:
- Identifying, locating, and cataloging all assets and property within the trust
- Minimizing trust expenses and paying them appropriately to maintain trust assets
- Managing continuing expenses like mortgage payments, insurance premiums, and utility payments
- Paying any income taxes due from the estate and any other due taxes
- Handling outstanding contracts and notifying appropriate government agencies of the trustor’s death
- Creating an estate bank account, brokerage account, and other accounts necessary to maintain the estate’s income
- Paying all owed estate taxes
- Locating heirs and beneficiaries, filing requisite notices, and keeping beneficiaries advised of all progress with the estate administration
- Supervising legal distribution of assets and filing all necessary petitions with the court
- Defending the estate if any legal action is filed against it
While it is technically possible for a trustee to manage these responsibilities on their own, hiring an experienced Orange County post-death trust administration attorney is an ideal way of streamlining the process and making trust administration easier for everyone involved.
How Long Does a Trustee Have to Notify Beneficiaries?
California state law requires a trustee to notify beneficiaries of a trust of the death in question within 60 days of their becoming trustee or the death in question, whichever occurs later. Every beneficiary identified by the trustor must receive written and notarized notice of the death and the beginning of the trust administration process.
How Long Does an Executor of a Trust Have to Settle an Estate in California?
Ideally, the complete settling of an estate in California should take no longer than 12 to 18 months following the estate owner’s death. However, the timetable required for estate administration can fluctuate due to numerous factors, such as the complexity of the assets contained within the estate and the appearance of any unforeseen disputes. Therefore, the executor or trustee must act in good faith to manage this timetable effectively and complete the estate administration process quickly. If beneficiaries believe the executor has failed to meet their obligations, they may have grounds for legal action against the trustee for breach of fiduciary duty.
Commonly Cited Causes of Trust Administration Disputes
Orange County post-death trust administration attorneys can provide valuable legal services to trustees and beneficiaries. For example, a trustee may require an attorney’s help to fulfill their legal duties to the trust. It’s also possible for a beneficiary to hire an estate planning attorney if they have a dispute to raise with the trust or with the trustee’s handling of it. Some of the most commonly reported causes of trust administration disputes in California include:
- Disputes over trust creation. An heir or beneficiary may dispute the grounds on which the trust was created or claim that the trust was created because of undue influence over the trustor. A dispute could also arise concerning whether the trustor had the legal capacity to create the trust.
- Disputes concerning the presence of fraud at any point in the trust administration process. A beneficiary may contend that fraud played a role in creating the trust or in the tabulation of assets contained in the trust.
- Disputes over handling of the trust. Beneficiaries may claim that the trustee failed to uphold their legal obligations in trust administration. For example, failing to accurately record all trust-related transactions or notify beneficiaries in a timely manner.
These are just a few examples of possible disputes that can significantly extend the time required to complete the trust administration process. An Orange County post-death trust administration attorney can be a valuable asset when these situations arise and complicate estate administration for your family.
What to Expect From Your Orange County Post-Death Trust Administration Lawyer
Hiring the proper legal counsel can have a tremendously positive impact on the outcome of trust administration for your family. For example, an Orange County post-death trust administration attorney can represent a trustee, guiding them through the trust administration processes and helping them fulfill their fiduciary duties faithfully, or they may represent a beneficiary who suspects a trustee has mishandled the estate in question.
When it comes to helping trustees complete estate administration, an Orange County post-death trust administration lawyer can guide the trustee through their responsibilities. Your attorney can help you identify and record all assets contained within the trust, manage beneficiary notification, and help track all transactions related to the estate. As far as beneficiaries are concerned, an Orange County post-death trust administration attorney can provide valuable legal guidance in navigating disputes regarding a trustee’s handling of their loved one’s estate and ensure a fair and timely distribution of estate assets.
Talk to an Estate Planning Probate and Trust Lawyer Today
Whatever your unique situation entails, the attorneys at the Flanigan Law Group can assist you. Our team offers over three decades of professional legal experience with estate creation and administration. We understand the complex issues that often arise during trust administration, and our goal is to help you approach these difficult situations as confidently as possible. We understand that trust administration is often an emotionally challenging issue for everyone involved and provide compassionate, detail-oriented legal representation through all phases of trust administration. If you are ready to discuss how an Orange County post-death trust administration attorney could help your situation, contact the Flanigan Law Group today and schedule a consultation with our team.