Probate & Trust Administration

Probate and trust administration is the process of winding up a decedent’s affairs and implementing the plan contained in the will or trust, or if there was no estate planning, settling the estate in accordance with Vermont law.  The duty of administration generally falls upon a “fiduciary”, a manager of moneys, assets, and businesses that do not belong to him or her.  Trustees, executors, estate representatives, and administrators, are all fiduciaries.

Conducting a probate or trust administration as a fiduciary may be complicated and require the knowledge, skill, and guidance of an attorney with Aaron J. Goldberg, PLC.  The firm has represented hundreds of fiduciaries, as well as heirs, beneficiaries, creditors, and other interested family members involved in the probate and trust administration process.

Probate Administration

Probate is the court-supervised process by which the property of a deceased person, the “decedent”, is transferred to his or her heirs and beneficiaries.  The decedent who signed a will is said to have died “testate.”  If the decedent did not sign a will, he or she is said to have died “intestate”, and Vermont law defines who inherits the estate.

Aaron J. Goldberg, PLC handles all probate administration matters, from small estates with a single bank account, to complex estates with business interests and assets in multiple jurisdictions.  The probate process can be complicated and it is important that you work with an experienced attorney should probate be necessary.

Trust Administration

The attorneys with Aaron J. Goldberg, PLC regularly provide legal advice to trustees.

A trust is created by a legal document under which money and other property benefit someone, but are not owned by him or her; instead, the property is owned by the trust.  The person responsible for managing the trust property is the “trustee”.

Trusts are sometimes created inside a will or living trust because there is some complication that would make a direct distribution of property problematic. For example:

  • Someone wants to provide for a spouse during his or her lifetime but wants property to ultimately go to his or her children from a previous marriage.
  • The beneficiary is a minor who cannot legally manage assets.
  • The beneficiary is mentally ill or incapable of managing assets wisely.

Attorneys with Aaron J. Goldberg, PLC are often consulted when:

  • The trust is created and a trustee is named;
  • A trustee resigns or dies and a new trustee must take over; and/or
  • Assistance is needed in the administration of the trust.

Generally, the trustee will be a family member chosen because he or she is honest, is not under anyone else’s influence, and has the time and resources to administer the trust.  Because this is not the trustee’s primary occupation, he or she will have questions about their duties.

We make sure the trustee understands his or her rights, responsibilities, and limitations. Examples include:

  • When someone becomes a trustee, there are certain legal notices the trustee must give to the beneficiaries, informing them of the terms of the trust, his or her role as trustee, and their right to receive regular accounting of trust assets and disbursements.
  • When a trust becomes active, (usually when the person who established it dies), the trustee must identify the beneficiaries, take control of the assets, and follow the instructions in the trust document for the disbursement and management of those assets.
  • Administrative issues may arise such as the risk of trust investments, the requisite filing of tax returns, the distribution parameters as applied to specific assets and trustee fees.

In the course of carrying out trustee duties, issues can arise that make seeking our advice a good idea.  For example:

  • There is a conflict between the interests of two different beneficiaries: one who wants the trust assets invested for maximum income and one who wants them invested for long-term increase in value.
  • There is language in the trust document that is unclear.
  • A beneficiary has passed away or has become disabled.
  • A court order is needed to reform the terms of the trust.

At some point every trust comes to an end.  To close out a trust, the trustee must:

  • Marshall all the assets
  • Identify the beneficiaries
  • Pay final administrative expenses
  • Distribute the assets to the beneficiaries
  • Hold a small reserve to pay the final taxes and submit the requested tax returns

We guide and instruct clients so that all trust matters are managed properly. 
People consult the attorneys of Aaron J. Goldberg, PLC because they need advice on how to be a responsible trustee and would like assistance in meeting all the legal requirements of this important position.

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Affiliations

Attorneys with Aaron J. Goldberg, PLC are members of the Vermont Bar Association and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.