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Probate & Trust Administration

Let us guide you through this daunting process

Probate and Trust Administration is a Process

It is difficult enough dealing with the loss of a loved one.  Let us help you with any probate or trust administration.

After a loved one passes away, it is often necessary to transfer the title of assets from the estate or trust of the deceased individual to their heirs.  If the person that passed away had a trust, then the trust will need to be properly administered by the successor trustee.  If there are any additional assets that are not part of a trust and such assets did not have beneficiary designations on them, then a probate proceeding may be necessary.  Probate proceedings tend to be complicated in that there are numerous statutory requirements that must be carefully followed.

At Sturgul & Long, S.C., we understand that settling the affairs of a loved one that just passed away can be a daunting task.  Whether you are simply looking for an initial consultation to get you going in the right direction or you need more extensive assistance, our office is here to help.  At Sturgul & Long, S.C., we are happy to do as much or as little of the estate or trust administration as you like. If you need any assistance with administering the estate or trust of a loved one that passed away, then contact Sturgul & Long, S.C. for a consultation.

Our Process

1. Schedule an Initial Consultation

Our interaction will start when you call our office to schedule an initial consultation.  We can conduct the initial consultation in person at one of our many office locations, virtually via Zoom, or via telephone.  Prior to the initial consultation, we will send you a questionnaire to complete so we can have as much information as possible about the individual who passed away.  Subject to your availability, we try to schedule this first appointment as soon as possible after you speak to one of our attorneys on the telephone.

2. Initial Consultation

Our initial consultations usually last between sixty and ninety minutes.  The attorney will review the completed questionnaire and other documents with you to determine whether any probate or trust administration is necessary.  To have a productive initial consultation, it is extremely important that you come prepared–which means bringing the completed questionnaire and other relevant documents.  If you wish to retain our services beyond an initial consultation, we will present you with a fee agreement and going forward we will bill at an hourly rate.

3. Probate and Trust Administration Process

If you decide to retain our services for any probate or trust administration, we will walk you through each step of the probate and trust administration process.  We will prepare any and all necessary court forms for a probate proceeding, or any forms necessary for you to continue to administer the trust.  We will also assist you with meeting any statutory deadlines, inventories, and accountings.  Additionally, we will assist you with handling any distributions to heirs.

My loved one had a will, why won't the bank let me access accounts?

Contrary to popular belief, a will in itself does not avoid a probate proceeding.  In fact, the purpose of a will is to direct a court how to dispose of a probate estate.  It is important to understand that probate is a process.  You will not be able to walk into a financial institution with a will to just gain access to an account.  If there are no beneficiaries on the account, or if the account is not in the name of a trust, the institution will require you to obtain “Domiciliary Letters” or  “Letters of Authority.”  An attorney does not just produce either of these.  An application or petition for probate will be required, which will take time.  There are some exceptions to this if the assets subject to probate qualify as a small estate.

How long does a probate proceeding take?

An average probate proceeding will take anywhere from twelve to eighteen months.  Some may be completed sooner, some may be completed later.  The reason that a probate proceeding can take so long is because of statutory timelines and tax filing requirements.  The length of time for completing a probate proceeding will also be extended if there is conflict among the heirs.  Trust administration can generally be completed in much less time. 

If I am a successor trustee, how do I proceed with administering a trust?

Luckily, court proceedings should not be required if the decedent kept all of his or her assets in the trust.  You will likely need an attorney to prepare a document certifying that you are the successor trustee.  It will also be necessary to obtain an Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service.  Even if you feel confident enough handling the trust administration, we generally recommend that you sit down with an attorney for some general guidance for trust administration.  As a matter of formality, there are some things that should still be done, such as publishing a notice to creditors and informing heirs of their timeline for challenging the trust.

Why doesn't the trust list the assets in it?

Very rarely will a trust actually itemize assets in it.  This is because a trust is a document that may very well exist for the lifetime of the deceased individual.  As such, assets will change from time to time and it is highly unlikely that any individual would immediately modify their trust to reflect the current assets.  To identify what is in a trust, it will be necessary to look at how each asset is titled.  For example, if a bank account is in a trust the bank statement will likely reference the name of the trust on it.  Similarly, if real estate is in the trust, the last deed of record would name the trust on it.  As such, you will need to review how each and every asset is titled to determine whether it is in the trust.

Are you looking for help?

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Offices in Hurley, Ashland, and Minocqua.

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Estate Planning and Elder Law issues are complicated. Let us help you!