Probate & Trust Administration: Common Questions and Their Answers

Posted by on Jan 22, 2022 in Legal News |

probate courtWelcome to the world of probate and trust administration. As you might have guessed, there are a lot of technicalities and complexities when it comes to this field. It’s best to contact a lawyer when you’re looking into your own estate or trust, but this article can serve as a basic guide to understanding what you’re working with. Here are ten common questions about this field and their answers. 

1. What is trust administration?

A closeup shot of a person holding a gavel on the table

It’s best to start with the basics. Essentially, the living trust is often considered a vehicle that gets you around probate court. Trust administration refers to the way in which a trustee manages the trust, according to the legal document’s terms. After the settlor (also known as donor) dies, the trustee must manage the trust for the beneficiary’s benefit. Trust administration is the process by which he or she does so.

2. Can you avoid probate court with a will? 

A will, by itself, isn’t effective for avoiding probate court. Wills have to go through court when there are assets, as this legal process implements the will’s provisions. If the deceased had a personal representative to act as executor of the estate, this executor will be in charge of administration. 

3. What do personal representatives do? 

Personal representatives collect the deceased’s assets. They prepare an inventory of the property, clear up debts, and pay taxes owed. You might have to sell some of the deceased’s assets in order to pay the debts. The executor also distributes assets and helps close the estate. 

4. How long does probate last? 

If the estate does end up in probate, it depends. The amount of debts and assets in the estate will affect is complexity. Also, it depends on how easy it is to contact beneficiaries or whether there are any disputes. If it is a smooth-running, routine probate, the process should last between nine and twelve months, though there’s no guarantee it will be that short. You can see why people try to avoid probate. 

5. Does trust administration take a while? 

Trust administration can be drawn out as well over a period of months or years, as it all depends on how complicated the estate is. There are five basic steps to trust administration, including inventorying assets, determining the estate tax, dividing the trust assets, filing federal and state taxes, and making distributions to beneficiaries.

6. Is a living trust cheaper? 

Living trust can reduce your costs significantly, when you compare it to the fees of probate. However, there is a lot of work to be done, even when administering a simple living trust. Don’t count out the service of an attorney, who will charge for their work. However, the fees associated with trust administration are often lower than the ones for probate, and there is less work involved because the state bureaucracy and courts don’t come into play.

7. What should I do about Social Security? 

The Social Security administration will keep sending out benefit checks, unless they are notified of the death of an individual. The executor has to contact the local Social Security office and let them know about the death. If a check is sent after the deceased passes away, the executor must send the check back, along with a notice telling them about the death. This is important, as the executor can be held liable for fraud if they accept checks after the rightful recipient dies.

8. Are you sure I need a lawyer? 

Yes, we’re sure. There are a lot of pitfalls, even in trust administration. There are legal requirements and technicalities that can easily invalidate or even lead to liability when you are executing a trust. If mistakes are made, you might be liable to beneficiaries for these screw-ups. Qualified attorneys can help you work through postmortem problems that might arise. 

9. What are the duties of a trustee? 

The duties include identifying and protecting trust assets, being scrupulously honest, figuring out what you’re supposed to do, and communicating regularly with the trust’s beneficiaries. You may have to manage the trusts long-term until the time comes to end the trust (something that will be determined by the instrument itself).

10. How do I get started? 

If you’ve been appointed as a trustee and are totally lost, don’t worry. Contact an attorney, as they will guide you through the process, from beginning to end.

Probate and trust administration can be tricky, so it’s best to seek help if you find yourself confused. If you have a good knowledge base and a good lawyer, things should go smoothly for your estate. Visit our website to learn more. 

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Cryptocurrency and Estate Planning

Posted by on Jan 14, 2022 in Legal News |

james bondCryptocurrency is the big thing in financial planning. Some people love it, some people hate it, and others are undecided. When you’re estate planning, if you have cryptocurrency, it is important to be very detailed about the crypto, no matter whether it is Bitcoin or something else. You should include information about where the currency is held and what it is. You should also include language in your documents that allows your trustee, if there is one, to manage the crypto without any liability.

In this article, we’ll talk about some of the basics when it comes to cryptocurrency. You can estate plan with this volatile digital currency, and the results can be quite beneficial for you and your family.

What is Cryptocurrency?

If you’ve seen any headlines in the past year, you’ve probably seen crypto mentioned time and again. Cryptocurrency is a collection of decentralized binary data. The binary data acts as a digital exchange. Basically, you buy Bitcoin, Ripple, or Litcoin with regular currency, and you can use it as a form of payment. The value of the cryptocurrency is volatile, plummeting and rising frequently. The main allure of crypto is that it is decentralized. It can be circulated without the need for a bank or government to act as a central monetary authority.

What Loved Ones Need to Know 

Basically, if no one knows you have it, then you will lose it, once you die. You need to treat crypto like any other asset when you’re making your estate plan—at least, as far as making sure it is included goes. Loved ones need to know that your crypto stash exists. They need to know where the crypto is, how to access it, and what to do with them. Investors need to choose and execute an estate plan that is based on their circumstances and holdings. If you have a more complex estate, you might need to seek the help of a trustee or custodian. 

Tips for a Secure Transfer

While the way cryptocurrency works into your estate plan depends on the value and nature of your holding, there are some good tips for ensuring that the assets don’t get lost after you die. These include: 

  • With a trusted friend or family member (preferably one who understands at least rudimentarily how cryptocurrency works), share your private keys and seed phrase.
  • Splinter the private keys and seed phrase among several trusted friends or family members. That way, no one has total control over your digital assets.
  • Create a trust. Then, transfer your crypto assets to the trust. You can designated a family member, corporation, or other authorized entity to manage the trust as a trustee.
  • Place your assets in custody, using something like a hardware wallet or software application. 
  • Utilize what is known as a “dead man’s switch app,” which will trigger the transfer of your crypto assets.
  • Instead of choosing a self-sovereign wallet, pick a cascading multi-signature wallet. 

One or a combination of these tips might be helpful to you in deciding how you want to manage the asset transfer. The main key is to be strategic and careful about how you structure your plan. If in doubt, contact an attorney.

Digital Asset Custodian Services 

There are companies out there that offer custodian services. These include businesses like Unchained Capital, Casa, BlockFi, Genesis, and Anchorage, among others. Some companies offer custodian and trustee services. Some trust companies tend to create lifetime discretionary trusts. But, again, there is no template for a successful digital estate plan. Your solutions can range from the complex to the simple—but almost all plans require some flexibility. 

An estate planning attorney familiar with cryptocurrency can help you manage it. A secure transfer is possible, but there are a lot of considerations that go with it. Don’t wait to include your digital assets in your estate plan. Visit our website and learn more about cryptocurrency. 

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New Year, New Assets to Protect

Posted by on Jan 9, 2022 in Legal News |

florida attorneyWell, we made it. It is officially 2022, and, hopefully, things are looking up. We can’t say the same for the case numbers out there, but it’s best to think optimistically, as far as the new year goes. With 2022 upon us, it’s important to think about protecting any new assets that you have obtained or might obtain. In this article, we’ll discuss the most important assets to protect, and you can see if any of them fit you.

Tangible vs. Intangible Assets

Before we get into some examples of assets you must protect, we should discuss the difference between tangible and intangible assets. Tangible assets are, simply put, things you can touch. Intangible assets do not exist in physical form—they usually exist digitally or through legal documents. 

Examples of tangible assets include: land, equipment, vehicles, furniture, machinery, inventory, and securities, such as cash, stocks, and bonds. Intangible assets might encompass things like checking and savings accounts, health savings accounts, life insurance policies, retirement plans, and digital holdings.

Documents You Can Use 

There are some basic must-haves when it comes to your estate plan. Briefly, we’ll go through the basics of what you need to have in your legal toolkit as a savvy estate planner. If any of these sound confusing, don’t worry, as an estate planning attorney will easily be able to help.


The last will and testament is easily one of the most recognizable of all the end-of-life planning documents. This is a final expression of where you want your assets to go after you die. There are requirements to make a will legally valid, which is why it is not a good idea to try to create your will yourself. If a will is improper, that will cause an ensuing tangle in probate court. Contact a lawyer to have your will drawn up correctly. 


A trust is way to transfer an asset without having to go through probate court. That definition is simplified, but, in this context, it is what you need to know for a basic knowledge base. A trust is a three-party fiduciary relationship. The donor (you) transfers title to an asset to a second party, called a trustee. The trustee holds title to the asset until you designate that it should be transferred to the third party, the beneficiary. If the asset is transfer-upon-death, the beneficiary will receive it once you die, whether it’s a fund or a piece of land. 

Beneficiary Designations 

Every estate plan should have beneficiary designations. These designations are usually made when there is a life insurance policy, retirement account, or financial account established. These designations let you transfer assets directly to people, regardless of what your will says. You can designate individuals or your estate as the beneficiary. The rules differ, depending on the account itself.

Healthcare Power of Attorney 

A power of attorney is a trusted individual that is key to protecting your assets. If you’re too sick or otherwise incapacitated to make decisions yourself, a healthcare POA can make medical decisions on your behalf. A financial power of attorney carries out much the same function, except, instead of medical decisions, he or she makes financial decisions for you when you cannot. As you can see, making sure your POA is trustworthy and sensible is extremely important for this legal tool.

Letter of Intent 

Last but not least, a good estate plan should include a letter of intent. This document usually includes instructions about how the executors of your estate should manage your will. The document can be persuasive in court, should there be any questions or challenges. Whether it is legally binding depends on the state, but, at the very least, it gives your loved ones important information about your end-of-life decisions. 

This list isn’t exhaustive, but you could find it useful when thinking about your estate planning for 2022. You don’t want to wait to update your estate plan, contact an estate planning attorney today to talk about new updates for the new year.

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