The practice of estate and trust administration ranges across a wide array of situations and practice areas. Many of our clients come to us after the passing of a loved one to assist them with the legal and financial aspects of handling the estate of their family member or friend. We have a long track record of successfully representing executors and administrators of estates and trustees of testamentary trusts.
We also advise and assist individuals who want to protect and preserve assets now with a view towards the future, by way of “inter vivos” or lifetime trusts. We have extensive experience representing trustees of a variety of representing trustees of a variety of different “inter vivos” trust structures which help carry out their duties.
Estates and Testamentary Trusts
Serving as a legal representative of an estate or trust can be a demanding responsibility. We have represented executors and administrators of estates of varying sizes, and trustees of testamentary trusts (a trust created by a will).
We assist individuals in successfully requesting that the Surrogate’s Court appoint them as a “fiduciary” or caretaker of an estate or trust, which allows them to protect and manage the decedent’s assets.
We also help the appointed fiduciary track funds and expenses, make necessary filings, including tax returns and asset investments; and distribute assets. One of our focuses is to advise a fiduciary on the efficient administration of an estate in order to reduce expenses and increase tax savings. Additionally, we always work with the goal of settling an estate quickly and efficiently and have expertise in maintaining comprehensive and accurate accountings which often need to be approved by a court in order to release a fiduciary of her responsibilities.
Once appointed, fiduciaries can face unexpected obstacles, regardless of how carefully an estate has been planned. We have resolved disputes regarding the interpretation of ambiguous or confusing provisions in wills and assisted fiduciaries in fulfilling their duties when dividing and distributing assets to beneficiaries. Additionally, some fiduciaries must wear different “hats”, acting as an executor or administrator, a trustee and, sometimes, a beneficiary. Our clients have benefitted from our advice in navigating their responsibilities and interests in their different roles.
Issues often arise during the course of administering an estate which require legal expertise in other practice areas. Our approach utilizes foresight and proactivity in identifying and planning for such issues before they even arise so that delays are minimized. A fiduciary may be required to sell real property or to continue operating a closely-held business in order to preserve and maintain the business for the beneficiaries who will inherit it. Frequently, creditors assert claims for outstanding debts of the decedent or a fiduciary must pursue debtors of the estate, which may involve litigation. Our broad range of expertise in real estate transactions, small business and corporate matters and civil litigation means that these issues can be handled by a single law firm, increasing efficiency and reducing costs.
Estate administration may also involve minor children and complicated family relationships. Our clients value our insight and sensitivity to family matters combined with our results-oriented approach and our fluency in the technical aspects of estate matters. We seek to mitigate potential tensions and, wherever possible, to resolve issues with the cooperation of beneficiaries and other interested parties. We have utilized this method to achieve successful results in the past while avoiding prolonged delays and minimizing costs.
Some estates include assets, such as real property, located in other states and we have experience working with counsel in other jurisdictions to take necessary steps to protect and distribute those assets. Additionally, we have previously acted as local counsel for non-residents who own property located in New York.
“Inter vivos” or Lifetime Trusts
Our clients have also benefitted from our guidance when serving as trustees of inter vivos (lifetime) trusts. We prepare necessary tax returns, maintain trust accountings, manage trust distributions and “Crummey” powers, which are utilized to take advantage of tax exemptions and steer clear of burdensome gift and estate taxes. We are highly-versed in life insurance trusts, grantor trusts, qualified personal residence trusts (QPRTs), grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs), charitable trusts and supplemental needs trusts. We have also handled trustee successorships and resignations and trust-related guardianship matters.