An “estate” involves all of a person’s assets and liabilities at the time of death. There are several ways that transferring those assets can play out.

What Is Involved in Estate Administration?

Estate administration means the process of collecting and distributing out the assets of someone who has died.

Sometimes a court process (called probate) is required, and sometimes it isn’t.

When the court process isn’t needed, you may still need to go through an estate administration that accomplishes the same goals, but you can think of this as a “less than probate” process.

Some examples:

  • If your spouse has died and you own most assets jointly, but you want to take his or her name off your house title. He or she also had a small individual bank account that you need to transfer and close.
  • The person who died had a Transfer on Death Deed naming you as the beneficiary.
  • If your parent died and he or she didn’t own any real estate, most assets passed to you by beneficiary designation but there are some smaller bank accounts and a car to transfer that total less than $75,000. (*In Wisconsin the limit for a small estate is $50,000).
  • A bank is asking for a “small estate affidavit” and you don’t know what that is, or you want help with it.

In all these examples, you are named as the Personal Representative if the decedent had a will, or if there is no will you are the sole primary heir (such as a spouse or only child), or if there are other heirs (such as your siblings) you all get along and agree that you should handle the distribution.

What Is Probate? How Is it Different?

A probate is typically required if there is real estate that needs a court process to be transferred, or if probate assets are greater than $75,000 for Minnesota residents, or $50,000 for Wisconsin residents. Probate assets do not include assets with beneficiary designations such as retirement assets (401K) or life insurance. It may also be a good choice to go through the court process if there are substantial debts, or if beneficiaries (heirs, such as children) are disagreeing about how to distribute property or about who should handle things. At this time I’m not handling probate cases but would be happy to provide you with some referrals.

“Someone died, and I need help.”

What Is Trust Administration? What Am I Required to Do?

Trust administration means someone has died with a funded trust. You are named as the successor Trustee.

Some things you might want help with:

  • Understanding your role as Trustee.
  • Setting up a new trust that was created under the existing trust (called a residuary trust, often is a trust for young children or grandchildren)
  • Transferring assets into the trust. For example, the person who died used a Transfer on Death Deed to put their home into the trust, or you want help filling out forms to accept assets through beneficiary designations.
  • Transferring assets out of the trust. For example, there is a trust bank account and you want to know what you should do before distributing it to the beneficiaries.

You may also need help with some of the same things listed under Estate Administration if there are assets outside of the trust, such as a car or small bank account.

Costs for Estate Administration & Trust Administration in MN & WI

Since these services are so variable, I typically charge an hourly rate for my advice, and flat fees for documents such as deeds. For estate administration, in particular, these can often be resolved efficiently so I usually charge a flat fee for specific documents such as an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property (a.k.a. a Small Estate Affidavit) or an Affidavit of Identity and Survivorship along with a single consultation and availability to answer other questions on an hourly basis.

Do You Need Help Administering an Estate or Trust? Call Me Today.

Whether you’re named as a Personal Representative or Trustee, I can help you ensure you fulfill all your duties. To learn more, contact me today.

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