Trust, Probate & Estate Administration

Trust Administration

Trustees are fiduciaries and therefore have legal duties and obligations that they are required to meet. Some of these duties and obligations are mandated by the terms of the trust document itself, and others are required under California laws governing trusts and trustees. Failing to comply with these duties and obligations, even if the trustee was acting in good faith, may result in the personal liability of the trustee. Given the complexity of the law in this area, it is highly advisable to seek the advice of an experienced California trust administration attorney, such as a San Francisco trust attorney from LPS.

The attorneys at LPS have significant experience in the area of trust administration, and can advise you on any issue arising during the administration of a trust, including:

  • The duties, powers and standards of a trustee;
  • Trustee accounting and recordkeeping;
  • Investing and managing trust assets;
  • Resignation or removal of a trustee;
  • Modification, revocation or termination of a trust;
  • Creditor’s rights against the trust or beneficiaries;
  • Administering a trust after the death of a settlor;
  • Subtrust funding;
  • Trustee compensation and attorneys’ fees;
  • Income taxation of trusts and estate tax returns;
  • Property tax considerations when real property is involved; and
  • Estate tax and income tax considerations.

Our Bay Area trust attorneys have a thorough understanding of the taxation issues arising in trust administration, and utilize disclaimers and other post-death estate and income tax savings techniques.

The San Francisco and Oakland trust attorneys of LPS welcome the opportunity to assist you in your trust administration.

Probate & Estate Administration

The San Francisco and Oakland probate attorneys at LPS have a wealth of experience in probate administration matters, and have handled estates of all sizes and complexities, ranging from simple estates to large estates comprised of business interests, multiple real estate interests and assets located in more than one state.

Probate refers to the process where a California court oversees the administration of a deceased person’s estate. One reason for probate administration is to ensure that any final bills and expenses of the decedent are paid, including any taxes owed, and any claims by creditors settled. Remaining assets are then distributed to the beneficiaries named in the decedent’s will, or if the decedent died without a will, or “intestate,” the decedent’s estate will be distributed to the decedent’s heirs as defined under California’s laws governing intestate succession. It is a common misconception that if a person has a will, probate is not required. This is simply not the case, and this belief may be based upon confusion between the differences between a will and a trust.

Probate costs generally fall into the following three categories including court costs, personal representative’s fee and attorneys’ fees. The fees paid to the personal representative and the attorneys are set by law and computed upon the gross value of the estate.

It is important to note that the statutory fees mentioned above are the same for all attorneys without regard to the relative experience and skill of the attorney. It does not cost you additional statutory fees to retain an experienced and competent probate attorney at LPS.

The amount of time required to probate an estate in the State of California can vary significantly depending on a number of factors, including but not limited to:

  • The nature and complexity of the estate;
  • The court’s calendar schedule;
  • The amount of time required for the probate referee to complete the appraisal;
  • The sale of any real property;
  • The number of creditors filing claims against the estate;
  • The personal representative’s available time to handle the probate;
  • The requirement of any estate tax returns; and
  • The existence of any dispute involving the estate.

For a simple estate, it generally takes from eight months to a year to obtain a signed order for distribution from the court. Many clients ask if this can be expedited, but it generally takes a minimum of six to eight weeks from the date of the filing of the petition for a personal representative to be appointed. After the personal representative is appointed, he or she is required to give notice to all known creditors. Four months must elapse to give those creditors time to file a claim against the estate. After this four month period, the petition for distribution must be filed with the court, and it generally takes six to eight weeks for the court to approve the petition and sign the order for distribution.

Mistakes made in filing documents with the court can result in those documents being rejected for filing by the court, resulting in additional time delays. These mistakes can be avoided by selecting an experienced San Francisco probate attorney to represent you.

Serving as the personal representative of a decedent’s estate involves many fiduciary duties and responsibilities. It is important to seek the guidance and representation of an experienced California probate attorney who focuses in probate administration and estate planning matters. Hiring a general practitioner with limited experience in probate matters may result in mistakes that significantly delay the probate process and cost the estate money.

For experienced and comprehensive representation in estate and probate administration in the Bay Area, contact a member of the SF estate planning and probate practice group of LPS.

For additional information about our Trust, Probate & Estate Administration practice, contact a lawyer at LPS.