Westborough MA Probate and Trust Administration Attorney
The Socius Law Firm offers comprehensive guidance to clients in Westborough, MA, Worcester County, and MetroWest Boston throughout the Probate and Trust Administration process. With our extensive expertise and wealth of experience, we provide unparalleled assistance in navigating the complex Probate and Trust Administration process. Rest assured, we will support you every step of the way. Whether you’re an executor or personal representative of a will or trust administrator, we are here to offer the clarity and support you need to fulfill your duties in full compliance with Massachusetts law.
Our firm offers expert advice to personal representatives, ensuring that their duties are comprehensively understood and diligently fulfilled while adhering to the instructions outlined in the will. Additionally, we assist clients in navigating probate and estate administration procedures in cases where a loved one has passed away without leaving a will.
Whether you have been appointed as the personal representative of an estate or require assistance in obtaining the appointment, we are here to help. We understand the complexities involved in managing a loved one’s estate during such a challenging time and will provide dedicated support every step of the way.
When is Probate Necessary in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, probate and estate administration is necessary when someone passes away. Probate is the process of transferring the deceased individual’s assets to those entitled to receive them, such as a surviving spouse, child, or other individual named in a will.
Probate Process - What is involved?
Probate is a process whereby the court supervises the transfer of assets from a person who has passed away to the new lawful owners. But first, the court must make sure that all of the decedent’s taxes and debts are paid.
Probate is generally a long, frustrating and expensive process. Much of our practice is devoted to using Revocable Living Trusts and other planning tools to help our clients avoid probate altogether. However, for families who did not do probate avoidance planning, we are frequently hired to guide them through the probate process.
While every probate is unique, here is a list of what is involved in a “typical” probate:
- Locate and file the decedent’s Will (if he or she had one) with the local probate court
- File necessary probate documents with the court
- Locate, inventory, obtain custody, close and transfer personal assets and accounts
- Appraise and determine the value of all assets
- Ascertain, and then notify, all known creditors of the estate
- Make payments to creditors, discharge the decedent’s obligations and obtain creditor releases
- Process and obtain life insurance death benefits, if any
- Secure the decedent’s residence and tangible personal property
- File tax returns and make appropriate tax elections
- Pay estate taxes and final personal income taxes, if any
- Obtain tax releases and closing letters from the IRS, local courts and state taxing authorities
- Make specific bequests, together with partial and final distributions, to beneficiaries
- Provide detailed accounting to beneficiaries and the local probate court
Revocable Living Trusts can accomplish a wide range of very important estate planning goals. However, many people assume that once they have created and funded a trust, it will simply take effect “automatically” when the maker of the trust passes away. This is not always the case. A trust must be properly administered for it to work the way it was intended and to carry out the trust maker’s wishes.
It is important to note that failing to properly administer a trust can have serious legal and financial consequences for the trustee and the beneficiaries.
If you have been asked to serve as trustee, don’t take the decision lightly.
We can explain the steps involved in the process, and the potential risks for administering the trust improperly. If you do indeed want to serve as trustee, we can guide you every step of the way to ensure the directives of the trust are carried out accurately and appropriately. If you would rather not accept the role of trustee, we can help you choose the ideal person or institution to do so.
Trust Administration Process
Trust administration is a necessary process that occurs after the death of one or both of the trust creators, also called grantors. There are multiple things that a trust administrator must do to protect the successor trustee and ensure proper administration of the trust. Working with an experienced trust administration attorney for the trust administration process provides successor trustees with peace of mind and the knowledge that they are following all of the legal guidelines.
In most cases, the grantor is alive when he or she creates the trust and appoints himself or herself as a trustee. Since this grantor is typically his or her trustee, he or she will appoint a new trustee who will have the duty to administer the trust when he or she passes away. The trust administration process involves settling complex estate matters and engaging in post-mortem planning.
Duties of a Successor Trustee During Trust Administration
Successor trustees in Massachusetts must follow the requirements outlined in the trust and fulfill all of the fiduciary duties of a trustee under the applicable law. Trustees have many fiduciary duties during the trust administration process. Most importantly, trustees must prioritize the beneficiaries who will inherit money or property from the trust above all other considerations. In other words, trustees should not put their interests first, but rather the interests of the beneficiaries.
Trustees have a duty to provide beneficiaries with an accounting of the trust assets. When trustees fail to do so, the beneficiaries may allege that the trustee engaged in the inadequate or irregular distribution of the funds. Trustees must administer the funds legally and according to the trust agreement. When beneficiaries have a reason to believe that the trustee has mismanaged the trust or not fulfilled his or her duty, they can file a claim. Trustees must also fulfill all of the following duties and obligations:
- Take control of the assets owned by the trust
- Appraise the value of the trust assets using their fair market values
- File an affidavit about the settlor’s death
- Send a notice that the trustor has passed away to the legal heirs
- Send a notice that the settlor has passed away to the trust beneficiaries
- Manage the trust assets according to the terms in the trust agreement
- Invest the trust’s assets wisely for the beneficiaries’ benefit
- Submit an income tax return on behalf of the decedent
- Open a bank account in the trust’s name
- Notify all banks and financial institutions of the decedent’s death
- File an estate tax return, when applicable
- Develop a strategy for making tax decisions that impact the trust’s assets
- Sell or transfer trust assets to pay debts and other liabilities
- Transfer the trust’s assets to the beneficiaries according to the trust agreement
Importance of Proper Trust Administration
Failure to properly administer a trust can have serious consequences for the trustee. For example, a trustee may be accused of making unwise financial investments with trust assets, causing substantial financial losses for the beneficiaries. This opens the door to potential litigation that could result in the trustee being held liable.
Lawsuits against trustees generally involve allegations of breaching the above-listed fiduciary duties. For example, a trustee could be accused of:
- Making poor investment or financial decisions
- Failing to preserve or protect trust assets
- Allowing trust assets to go to waste or be stolen
- Misappropriation of trust assets for personal use
- Acting in the trustee’s own interests, e.g. self-dealing
- Improperly favoring one beneficiary over another
If you’re a trustee accused of these or other actions, you will need strenuous legal defense to protect your rights. On the other hand, if you’re a beneficiary and suspect the trustee is acting improperly, it’s also imperative to retain experienced legal counsel. The Socius Law Firm represents both trustees and beneficiaries in litigation over trust administration.
Our firm can also ensure that, as a trustee, you carry out your responsibilities according to your fiduciary duties. We will review the trust terms, explain your obligations under the law, and then get to work helping you administer the trust.
Working With Socius During - Probate and Trust Administration
As you can imagine, accomplishing all of this is hard enough without the added grief of losing a loved one.
At the Socius Law Firm, we can guide you through the Probate and Trust Administration process from beginning to end and make it as stress-free as possible. You are not alone during this difficult time. We are here to help.
If you need help with the Probate and Trust Administration process, we are here to assist you. Contact us today!
Questions Our Clients Often Ask
At the Socius Law Firm, we believe estate planning is a process where you design a blueprint that:
- allows you to control your property when you are alive and well
- enables you to control how your & your loved ones are cared for in the event of incapacity
- allows you to control how your assets are managed, used and passed in the event of your death
- enables you to save every last tax dollar, professional and court cost.
While this is typically accomplished through a set of estate planning documents, it is crucial to keep in mind that estate planning is not only about the documents themselves. It is about making a series of informed decisions and taking a series of thoughtful actions, all of which are designed to ensure that in the event of your incapacity or death, things will transition in the way you would have hoped, with the least disruption possible and with minimal or no intrusion by the court.
Learn more about the Socius Law Firm's unique 6-Step Estate Planning Process.
Both a Will and a Trust are useful estate planning documents, but understanding their differences will help you decide which is right for your particular estate planning objectives and personal circumstances.
Find out why a Will alone may not be the best choice for you and your family by viewing our side-by-side comparison chart.
As the foundation of the modern estate plan, a Revocable Trust helps you control how your assets are managed and used while you are alive and well, if you become incapacitated, and after you die.
A Living Trust enables the coordinated distribution of all of your assets, while maintaining the greatest degree of asset control and flexibility - both during your lifetime and after death.
There are many important benefits of Trusts beyond federal and MA estate tax considerations such as:
- Avoiding probate and ensuring a smooth transition
- Protecting assets
- Planning for incapacity or disability (without Court oversight)
- Controlling distributions to beneficiaries (give what you have…to whom you want, the way you want, when you want)
- Maintaining 100% privacy
We offer four levels of comprehensive estate planning - each highly customized to meet your unique family situation. Plan fees are dependent upon your personal values, goals and objectives.
From starter plans primarily for families with young children and little in the way of financial wealth, to more robust plans for well-established families who want to avoid probate, provide asset protection and eliminate or minimize estate taxes, we offer estate planning levels to meet your needs and objectives. Estate planning fees generally range from $1,200.00 up to $8,500.00 on the high end for an extensive estate plan. We also offer several advanced estate planning options for those who need even more planning.
At the Socius Law Firm, we have established a unique estate planning process where we listen and learn about you, your family and personal circumstances, thoroughly explain the estate planning options available to you and custom design, implement and maintain a comprehensive estate plan that reflects your specific concerns, fears, goals and objectives. Our process is designed to ensure your confidence at each step along the way, from the initial planning meeting through the delivery and implementation of your completed plan and beyond. The ultimate outcome of our estate planning process is to give you peace of mind.
We all like to put off important tasks and wait until the very last minute, this includes estate planning. There is always “something” that would be more fun to spend time doing or money on. However, honestly there are few things that are more important and none that are a better investment for yourself and your family. Take the first step….
Probate is a process whereby the Probate Court supervises the transfer of assets from a person who has passed away to the new lawful owners.
Probate is generally a long, frustrating and expensive process. Much of our practice is devoted to using trusts and other planning tools to help our clients avoid probate altogether. However, for families who did not do probate avoidance planning, we are frequently hired to guide them through the probate process.
If you become mentally incapacitated, you won’t be able to manage your own financial affairs. Many are under the mistaken impression that their spouse or adult children can automatically take over for them in case they become incapacitated. The truth is that for others to be able to manage your finances, they must petition the Probate Court to declare you legally incompetent.
This process can be lengthy, costly and stressful. Even if the court appoints the person you would have chosen, they may have to come back to the Probate Court every year and show how they are spending and investing the money.
If you want your family to be able to immediately take over for you without Probate Court interference, you must designate a person or persons that you trust with the use of a Durable Power of Attorney.
A Health Care Proxy allows you to appoint someone you trust - for example, a family member or close friend to make decisions on your behalf about medical treatment options if you lose the ability to decide for yourself. Without a Health Care Proxy, your loved ones would have to petition the Probate Court for authority to make medical decisions on your behalf.
In addition to a Health Care Proxy, you should also have a Living Will which informs others of your preferred medical treatments such as the use of extraordinary measures should you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill.
At the Socius Law Firm, we have developed an expertise in planning for the well-being and care of children should the unthinkable happen. We call this advanced legal planning — Kids’ Safeguard Planning.
Kids’ Safeguard Planning is based on the premise that a Will alone is simply not enough to protect minor children should both parents die or become incapacitated.
If you are a parent of minor children, your estate plan needs to include Kids’ Safeguard Planning to ensure your children will always be taken care of by the people you want, in the way you want, and never put in a situation you wouldn’t like.