In Madison and surrounding areas of Wisconsin, the estate planning attorneys of Borakove Osman LLC assist many clients dealing with the complexities of estate and trust administration after the death of a family member or close friend. Known for our concern as well as for our excellent guidance and legal representation, we are well-positioned to help.
Estate and trust administration are parts of the same vital process in which the assets of an estate are transferred to beneficiaries according to the wishes of the deceased. This process involves two key roles: the trustee, who manages and distributes assets within a trust, and the personal representative (executor) who oversees the distribution of assets in an estate. To accomplish the duties intrinsic to either job it is necessary to understand exactly what those duties are.
Both Personal Representatives and Trustees Are Fiduciary Roles
First, it is important to realize that both of these positions are fiduciary roles, meaning that they carry significant legal and ethical obligations. In the state of Wisconsin, these responsibilities are governed by specific state laws enacted to ensure that beneficiaries’ interests are fully protected. Whether you are choosing a trustee or personal representative for your estate plan or taking on one of these roles yourself, it is essential to understand precisely what is expected.
Trustees and executors must always protect the assets they are responsible for and serve the best interests of the beneficiary. There is a high standard of care demanded by law. If regulations are violated, there may be civil or even criminal penalties. For this reason, it is wise to work with an experienced estate and trust administration attorney.
Duties of a Trustee
A trustee is tasked with managing and distributing the assets of the trust according to the terms set by the settlor, the individual who established the trust.
- Managing Assets: One of the trustee’s primary responsibilities is managing the trust’s assets. This involves investing cautiously to safeguard those assets while generating reasonable returns.
- Recordkeeping and Reporting: Trustees are required to maintain accurate records of all trust-related financial transactions and regularly report to beneficiaries on the financial status of the trust to ensure transparency.
- Prudent Decision-making: Trustees may be held to account for their decisions so they must make thoughtful ones, exercising due diligence to protect the beneficiary.
- Avoiding Conflicts of Interest: Trustees must avoid situations in which their personal interests conflict with the beneficiaries’ interests. If they benefit from a trust transaction, this may be viewed as suspicious self-dealing.
Duties of a Personal Representative
A personal representative is responsible for administering the estate of a deceased individual. Their fiduciary duty involves managing the estate’s assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries as specified in the will. Specific tasks the personal representative is assigned include:
- Submitting the Will to the Probate Court for Validation: In most cases, this is a necessary step to estate administration, although in some cases involving high-net-worth or complex estates, our lawyers may have transferred assets to a living trust to avoid probate altogether.
- Notifying All Beneficiaries, Creditors, and Other Interested Parties of the death.
- Opening an Estate Bank Account
- Taking Inventory of Estate Assets: The personal representative must compile an inventory of all assets owned by the deceased and determine their value, if necessary through professional appraisal.
- Settling Debts and Tax Obligations: The executor must also settle any outstanding debts, file a final tax return for the estate, and pay all owed taxes, including estate taxes. If necessary, some assets may have to be sold to settle existing debts.
- Distributing Remaining Estate Assets to Beneficiaries Distribution: Following debt settlement and tax obligations, the executor is responsible for distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will.
- Creating Testamentary Trusts for Beneficiaries
- Distributing Remaining Estate Assets to Beneficiaries
- Closing Out the Estate
You Can Depend on Borakove Osman LLC
Our seasoned estate and trust administration attorneys can be invaluable when it comes to answering your questions and addressing your concerns. If you feel overwhelmed by the multiple duties and fiduciary responsibilities of your job, you can count on us to provide the guidance you need. We will help to make sure that you:
- Stay in compliance with pertinent laws
- Implement strategies to minimize potential liabilities
- Have all the documentation you need for records and transparency
- Meet all deadlines for debt, tax settlement, and asset distribution
- Communicate easily with beneficiaries and handle any conflicts that arise
Overall, we will provide you with the legal and moral support you need to feel comfortable and effective in your role.
Contact Our Accomplished Estate & Trust Administration Attorneys in Madison, WI
At Borakove Osman LLC, our attorneys are well-equipped to guide you through being a trustee or personal representative. We know that the role you have taken on may be complicated by your emotional reaction to the death of someone close to you. We can rely on us to be sensitive as well as effective advisors. Contact us today.
Borakove Osman, LLC is your trusted partner for estate and trust administration in Wisconsin. Serving all of Wisconsin, including Madison and Dane County, we are dedicated to providing high-quality legal advice and representation to help you secure your family’s future.