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The practice of Trusts & Estates can be broken into 3 major components: Trust & Estate Planning, Trust & Estate Administration and Trust & Estate Litigation.

Trust & Estate Planning

Trust & Estate Planning runs the spectrum from a relatively simple affair to an extremely complex, interrelated web of documents and entites. No matter how simple or complex, however, the usual goal of Trust & Estate planning is the same: preservation of assets during lifetime, smooth inheritance for beneficiaries upon death and saving on taxes where possible.

The best known Trust & Estate Planning tool is the Last Will and Testament. While a tried and true document, the utility of a thoughtfully prepared Last Will and Testament cannot be overstated. While Wills are frequently used to ensure inheritances pass between spouses and to children, they’re also a great way to nominate guardians for minor and disabled children, engage in asset protection planning for young or troubled beneficiaries and ensure a fair distribution of assets for blended families.

Trusts are similar to Wills, in that they have provisions which direct distribution of assets upon death, but Trusts also serve many other purposes. Unlike Wills, Trusts are typically not subject to Court review and oversight, that is, they avoid probate. In addition, Trusts are frequently used as a tool for Medicaid planning and asset protection planning during life. Trusts tend to be either revocable or irrevocable, but they can also be built into a Will, called a testamentary trust.

Trust & Estate Administration

Trust & Estate Administration is the process of running or operating the Trust or Estate.

When it comes to Estates, this process usually begins with the offering of a Last Will and Testament for probate or petitioning the Surrogate’s Court for Letters of Administration after the death of a loved one, depending upon if they had a Last Will and Testament or not. After Court appointment of an Executor or Administrator, the next step of Estate Administration consist of collection of assets, payment of creditors and, ultimately, making distributions to the beneficiaries of the Estate.

Trust administration typically begins the moment the Trust is created. Trusts tend to be administered pursuant to the terms of the Trust documents itself, but external laws must be considered as well, especially when using Trusts to qualify for Medicaid benefits. Trust administration can last for several years, even several generations. Trust administration typically ends when the Trust document provides for a final distribution of all assets held in the Trust.

Trust & Estate Litigation

Trust & Estate Litigation is the legal, Court-involved process which tends to result when either Trust & Estate Planning or Trust & Estate Administration go awry. Trust & Estate Litigation typically concerns the validity of a Last Will and Testament, issues of mental capacity of those creating Trusts or Wills, concerns of undue influence and claims surrounding the failure of Executor, Administrator or Trustee to properly administer an Estate or Trust.

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