Estate and Trust Administration

Reilly Law, PLC can also assist you with the many legal, financial, and other matters that must be done after the death of a family member. Under the general heading of estate administration, there are a long list of things that the responsible party appointed by the deceased individual (“decedent”) must do, some of which must be accomplished fairly soon after the death. Reilly Law, PLC can assist with probate matters or Trust administration in Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, and the nearby Maryland suburbs.

If the decedent had no Will, it is a situation called “intestacy” and the estate will be administered according to state law. If the decedent had a Will, it presumably appointed someone to serve as Executor or Personal Representative.

You must be aware that mere appointment to this role in the Will does not give the individual legal authority to act in that role until such time as he or she is appointed by a court. Many people believe they can continue to act under a Power of Attorney but that is a misconception. Powers of Attorney expire at the death of the individual who created the POA. Thus there may be a “gap” in legal authority between death and appointment as Executor or Personal Representative. During this gap family members may be allowed to do certain things and may have to pay expenses from their own pockets which will likely be reimbursed from the estate later on in the process.

If the decedent had a Living Trust and had appointed a Successor Trustee there is no gap in legal authority. A Co- or Successor Trustee, even one who was not previously acting, automatically steps into the role as a Trustee able to take any actions related to the decedent and the Trust. This is one of the main benefits of a Trust-based estate plan over a Will-based plan. Even if there is still a need for probate, a Trust-based plan will have a much quicker (and significantly less expensive) probate process and the beneficiaries will receive their inheritances much faster than if the decedent had a Will and needed a full probate proceeding.

The USAA Educational Foundation provides two free guides that you might find useful after the death of a loved one. The first addresses the emotional aspects of the death and the grieving process. It is available for download at https://www.usaaedfoundation.org/files/publication/wb/1b/rsrc/70552-0514_When_a_Loved_One_Dies__Coping_With_Grief.pdf

The second is a general overview of the legal and financial issues that the designated family member or trusted agent will need to address. https://www.usaaedfoundation.org/files/publication/wa/1a/rsrc/When_a_Loved_One_Dies__Legal___Financial_Concerns.pdf

 In addition to these guides, the following links are to state-specific guidance for estate administration matters. While a family member or trusted agent can take on the role of Executor or Personal Representative, it is generally beneficial to at least work with an attorney on some or all of the matters. Reilly Law, PLC has experience working with Executors who took on many of the tasks themselves as well as those who delegate much of the probate responsibility to the firm. Estate administration at Reilly Law, PLC is done on a time and expense basis so the estate only pays for the work done by the firm. The Executor controls the process.

District of Columbia: The Office of the Register of Wills, Probate Division, of the Superior Court, has an overview guide for the probate process in the District at: http://www.dccourts.gov/internet/documents/ADM_brochure.pdf

Maryland: The Register of Wills Office also has an overview guide for the probate process in Maryland at: http://registers.maryland.gov/main/packets/AdministrationBooklet07.pdf

Virginia: The Virginia Bar Association has a guide to the administration of estates in Virginia. The version available now is in the process of revision so should only be used as a general guide: http://vba.affiniscape.com/associations/11069/files/adminguide.pdf

 

Estate administration can be a challenging process, emotionally, legally, and financially. We offer a free initial consultation to discuss estate and trust administration. Please contact Reilly Law, PLC to discuss your situation.