Indiana Probate and Estate Administration
Offices in Fishers and Rockville, serving all surrounding Cities
Probate is the Court process that must be followed when a person dies with a will or intestate (without any will or a valid will). This process legalizes the transfers of assets by the Executor to those beneficiaries named in the will. It also allows time for creditors to make claims against the estate. When a person dies without a will, the estate must still go through the Probate process, but instead of the direction of the will as to the distribution of assets, the laws of the State where the decedent lived or had assets would determine who received what asset. There are times when this does not reflect the intent of the decedent and is a driving factor for estate planning during life.
There are times when the countable assets of an estate are so low that the Court does not require Probate. This is called Small Estate Administration and the threshold amount of assets varies from state to state and often changes, so an Attorney would need to be contacted.
Depending on the situation, and by the direction of an Estate Planning Attorney, an estate administration could be Supervised or Unsupervised. A Supervised administration is governed by the laws of the State of Indiana and the Executor has no independent authority to act on behalf of the Estate. Court approval must be sought prior to any action. This tends to increase the time involved to administer the estate but offers significant transparency for all creditors and beneficiaries. With an Unsupervised Estate, the Court is only involved during the “major steps” of the administration of the estates. For example, the Court is involved in opening the estate, in the middle when an inventory is required and at the end to close the estate. The Executor has the authority to act on behalf of the Estate on most matters without seeking Court approval.
Regardless of the situation, seek the advice of an Attorney after the death of a loved one to begin any Probate process.
Probate is a public court process where the documents regarding assets and beneficiaries are made part of a public record where anyone could access. It can, at times, also be a lengthy and costly process. Because of this, many clients would like to do their estate plan so that probate is avoided. There are a few ways that probate can be avoided, like owning property as joint tenants, beneficiary designations, pay on death deeds and a properly funded trust. Speaking to an informed Estate Planning Attorney is essential if avoiding probate is your goal.
Indiana Estate and Trust Administration
A properly drafted and funded trust will generally avoid probate. The trust need not be filed with the probate court. Nonetheless, there are still steps necessary to administer the trust: beneficiaries must be contacted; assets must be gathered, valued and managed; potential creditors must be notified; debts, taxes and final expenses must be paid; and, ultimately, any remaining income and assets must be distributed in compliance with the trust terms. Successor trustees often lack the time, resources or knowledge to personally administer the trust, and therefore may call upon legal, accounting and investment professionals for assistance. Oftentimes, a corporate fiduciary (e.g., a trust company) is an excellent alternative to relying solely on busy family members or friends to serve as trustee. We can help your successor trustee(s) deal with the complexities of administering your trust. Please call our office and we will be happy to schedule a consultation, whether or not our office has drafted the original trust.