Estate administration refers to the management and settlement of a decedent’s estate. Estate administration involves gathering the assets of the estate, paying the decedent’s debts, filing any required income and/or estate tax returns, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.
If a decedent dies with assets titled solely in their name, these assets are commonly referred to as probate assets. An estate with probate assets must go through the Probate Court to have the probate assets transferred to the beneficiary. A decedent’s estate may not only include probate assets, but may also include beneficiary designated assets, assets owned jointly with rights of survivorship with another, or assets held in a revocable trust.
Probate is a court process of transferring a decedent’s assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries. A probate can be either formal or informal. Both procedures involve filing paperwork, giving notice to heirs and beneficiaries, having the court appoint a personal representative to manage the estate, pay debts and distribute assets. The probate court plays a minimal role in an informal administration while in a formal administration there is more court oversight. In Massachusetts a probate proceeding can begin with one procedure and end with the other. For example, the estate could begin informally and end formally.
We assist families through this process, including the probating of an estate with probate assets, determining which probate procedure is appropriate, arranging for beneficiary designated assets and jointly owned assets to pass to the beneficiary or joint owner, and assuring that the assets held in a revocable trust are properly transferred to the appropriate beneficiaries or managed in trust in accordance with the terms of the revocable trust.
In addition to gathering assets, paying debts and distributing assets to the beneficiaries, our attorneys determine whether any tax filings are required. Typically, on the death of decedent final income tax returns must be filed and the estate itself may also be required to file fiduciary income tax returns. In this case we arrange for the preparation of the necessary returns. If the estate exceeds the federal applicable exclusion amount ($11,400,000 in 2019), a federal estate tax return must be filed. In Massachusetts if a decedent has a gross estate in excess of $1,000,000, a Massachusetts estate tax return must be filed. As experienced estate and gift tax attorneys, we work with the personal representative in the preparation and filing of federal and state estate tax returns.