Trust & Estate Administration

We are available to assist the Trustee or Executor in managing, administering and distributing your estate in accordance with the directions provided in your Trust and your Will.

Estate administration is the task of submitting your Will to the Probate Division of the appropriate Circuit Court, qualifying your Personal Representative, and seeing to the administration of your probate and non-probate assets. This is sometimes referred to as the probate of your Will.

We can assist your designated Executor in securing the proper documents to submit to the court, establishing an account for the Estate assets, identifying your assets, and determining any outstanding debts or liabilities. Your Executor must first apply your assets to any known debts or liabilities, including a final tax return, and may then distribute the remaining assets in accordance with the terms of your Will. No payments should be made without first consulting with an attorney, as the order of payment on the debts is sometimes determined by statute.

Some assets do not pass under the terms of your Will, but are considered “non-probate” assets that are distributed according to the terms established by that asset.  For instance, life insurance is a “non-probate” asset, and the insurance proceeds will be distributed in accordance with the designation of beneficiary that you filed with the insurance company. You cannot change that designation by naming a different beneficiary in your Will, as the life insurance is controlled by the insurance contract and not by your Will. Similarly, retirement accounts and annuities generally have a designated beneficiary, and will pass to that designated beneficiary upon your death.

Accounts which you have designated as “pay on death” accounts or “transfer on death” accounts are also “non-probate” assets. These accounts will pass to the designated beneficiary in accordance with the designation you have provided to the financial institution.

Ownership of assets which are held jointly with one or more other persons, and which are designated as held “with rights of survivorship,” will pass to the surviving owner or owners upon your death, and are not subject to the probate process.

We can assist your Executor or Personal Representative in identifying your non-probate assets and making sure that appropriate procedures are followed so that those assets will be distributed in accordance with your designations.

The Circuit Court provides oversight and supervision of estate administration in Virginia, through the separate office of the Commissioner of Accounts. We can assist your Executor or Personal Representative with the preparation of the necessary reports and documentation to be submitted to the Commissioner of Accounts, and in responding to audit requests from the Commissioner’s office.  We frequently work with accountants and other professionals to provide assistance to clients in meeting the requirements of this auditing process.

Trust administration may take place during your lifetime or after your death.  If you have prepared a trust agreement during your lifetime, the trust administration is the process of carrying out the instructions provided in that trust agreement.  We can assist the trustee in complying with the fiduciary requirements of the trustee position, identifying and managing trust assets, and making distributions in accordance with the instructions you have included in your trust agreement.

The management of trust assets often includes working with financial planners and advisors to determine appropriate investment of trust assets, and working with accountants to establish appropriate income and asset accounts and comply with tax reporting rules.

We also represent trustees when there is a dispute about the proper interpretation of the trust instructions, or when a beneficiary challenges the trustee’s actions in administering the trust. This may include informal discussions, negotiations, mediations, or court proceedings.

We work with trust beneficiaries to determine their rights and responsibilities under the trust agreement, and to insure that the instructions contained in the trust are properly carried out by the trustee. We also represent beneficiaries when there is challenge to the interpretation or administration of the trust, or when the trustee is not complying with the duties imposed by the trust agreement or by governing law for fiduciaries.

Our office can serve as your Trustee or Executor if you do not have a family member or friend who is willing to serve in that capacity.