Q: What is Probate?
A: Probate is designed to create a “final accounting” upon death. It is the legal process of “proving up” a Will, or verifying that a Will is valid, takes place in one of two instances. First, if a person dies leaving behind a Will, or second, if the deceased has died intestate, that is, has not left behind a Will or estate plan of any type or the Will cannot be found.
Q: Does the Probate process take a long time?
A: Depending on the complexity of the estate and the thoroughness with which accounting has been carried out before death, probate can either be a relatively simple task or a daunting one. Be aware that no matter the situation, probate may be a lengthy process often taking months or possibly years to play out, and one which may take a considerable amount of an executor’s time.
To summarize the process, probate can be broken into six basic steps:
Each of these steps involve legal documentation and validation, and more importantly, proper accounting each step of the way.
Q : What is Probate Court?
A: Probate begins and ends with the special Probate Court set up in each state to handle estate issues. (Sometimes known as the Orphan’s or Chancery Court in certain states.) All actions taken regarding the estate are accountable to this court, and must be noted and reported regularly. This court is staffed by special judges qualified to oversee estate resolution issues.
Q: Does the Trust Administration process take a long time?
A: To summarize the process, trust administration can be broken into five basic steps:
Although the trust administration process seems relatively straightforward, there are several reasons it can sometimes be drawn out over several months or even years. The first step, the inventory of assets, must be completed before the trust administration can begin, and this can be difficult to complete depending upon the prior organization and the size and complexity of the decedent’s assets. Next, the 706 estate tax return must be filed within 9 months, or 15 months if an extension is filed. Often, it is prudent to wait until the last minute to file this form. If the spouse of the decedent is in failing health and may pass away before the deadline, then both 706 forms can be used to maximize tax advantages to the estate. The final step, asset distribution, cannot take place until the 706 has been filed, and even then should not take place until the “Closing Letter” is received from the IRS certifying acceptance of the 706 return. This closing letter will take a minimum of 6 to 8 months, and as long as 3 years, to arrive after the 706 is filed. In addition, there may be a state estate or inheritance tax return required, even if a federal return is not required.
Q: I thought that a living trust avoids probate and attorney fees. Why do I have to pay more fees?
A: While having a living trust can significantly reduce costs compared to probate, there is still a considerable amount of work to be done in properly administering even a simple living trust. The services of an attorney are required, and that person or firm should be compensated fairly for their services. It is important to remember that the fees allowed for trust administration are usually much lower than those for probate, and there is generally less work involved, as there is less involvement of the courts and state bureaucracy.
Q: Can I pick and choose what assets go into the “B” trust?
A: The answer depends upon the language of the trust document. Certain trusts include “pick and choose” language that allows trustees to selectively place assets into the “B” trust.
Q: How do I transfer the car(s) into my name?A: If you are a relative of the deceased, this is simple in most states. To transfer the title of vehicles owned by the deceased, simply take the death certificate to the DMV, and perform the transfer, paying whatever fees they require. If not a relative, bringing along the will and or any trust documents indicating your status should be sufficient.
Q: What do I do about Social Security?
A: Social Security will continue to send out benefit checks until they are notified of an individual’s death. The executor/spouse/trustee should contact the local Social Security Administration office and notify them of the death, or if a benefit check is received, send it back with a letter notifying them. This is important. If checks continue to be deposited, the recipient can incur liability later when Social Security learns of the recipient’s death.
Probate stands in the way of your heirs and their inheritances when your assets are in your name at the time of your death. Nevada probate can take a significant amount of time (often a year or more), and most people would like their heirs to receive their inheritances in a more timely manner. For some, this wait is not a problem. For other families, however, there may be an immediate need for liquidity.
The waiting period is only one of the problems with the Nevada probate process. Expenses can accumulate during this process , and they can ultimately consume a noticeable percentage of the estate (often 4% - 8% or more if there is a contest). This is all money that could have gone to the heirs if probate was avoided.
It is possible to avoid probate in Nevada. There are a number of ways to go about it, and one of the most popular probate avoidance solutions is the revocable living trust.
Once you convey assets into the name you have given to your revocable living trust you name a trustee that is empowered to manage the assets that are titled in the trust. You also name a beneficiary or beneficiaries who would receive distributions out of the trust. The nature of these distributions would be decided by you when you create the trust agreement.
Initially you may serve as both the trustee and the beneficiary. By doing so, you do not surrender control or beneficial use of the assets. You can distribute assets to yourself, manage your own investments, and change the terms of the trust agreement if you want to do so. Since the trust is revocable, you can even revoke it entirely if you ever choose to do so. Since the point is to facilitate the transfer of your financial assets after you pass away you name a successor trustee, and you name beneficiaries who will receive distributions out of the trust after you die.
Once the assets have been conveyed into the revocable living trust they are no longer considered to be probate assets under the laws of the state of Nevada. As a result, when the trustee distributes monetary resources to the beneficiaries of the trust these asset transfers are not subject to the process of probate.
The creation of a revocable living trust is one way to avoid the probate process, but there are others as well. If you would like to discuss all of your options with a licensed professional please feel free to contact Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd. to request a no obligation consultation.
We will listen carefully as you explain your objectives, gain an understanding of your unique personal situation, and make the appropriate recommendations. You can then go forward with a tailor-made estate plan that will facilitate a fast, efficient, and cost-effective transfer of assets to your loved ones when the time comes. To learn more, please download Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd.'s free probate process report.