Many people plan their estates just by writing a will. For many people, a will is effective in passing assets to intended heirs during probate, which can make the probate process simpler. Some people believe they don’t have enough assets to warrant setting up a trust for the administration of all or part of their estate, though this is a common misconception, and trusts are not just for the wealthy. Trusts can help avoid probate fees among other benefits. Both methods distribute assets to your heirs, but they do so in different ways.
The administration of an estate in probate or through a trust can be complicated, and beneficiaries often want to have the help of a Charleston probate and trust administration lawyer. Contact Weeks & Irvine, LLC, for assistance today.
There are similarities between trust administration and probating a will. Both distribute assets to heirs. Both have a person appointed to administer that process. A trust is administered by a trustee, while a will is administered by a personal representative. Both are responsible for carrying out the wishes set forth in the relevant document, whether a trust or a will. However, those similarities are primarily on the surface.
The nuts and bolts of administration for a trust and for a will are quite different. The most glaring difference is that a will goes through Estate Administration, a process supervised by the courts. The personal representative of a will is responsible for a number of tasks, including:
The trustee is responsible for many of the same tasks but is not under court supervision. The assets for which the trustee is responsible – the body of the trust – already are identified and under the trustee’s control in most circumstances when the grantor of the trust dies. The trustee might be free to distribute benefits to heirs immediately, without waiting for court permission or probate approval, though they must do so in accordance with the trust document.
Both the personal representative of a will and the trustee of a trust have what is known as a fiduciary duty to the heirs, meaning they have a legal obligation to act in the best interests of the heirs as they administer the inheritance they are charged with. A personal representative of a will can be sanctioned by the court for breaching that duty, while a trustee can be sued by the beneficiaries. It is often important for a personal representative or trustee to have the counsel of an experienced attorney.
If you have been designated as a personal representative or trustee, you have a lot of responsibilities, and you should talk to a legal professional. Contact the attorneys of Weeks & Irvine, LLC, as we assist clients with probate and trust administration matters, and we can help you through every step of the process.