Hermenze & Marcantonio LLC represents clients in all aspects of the administration of a deceased person’s estate. While our client is usually the Executor of the decedent’s Will and/or the Trustee of the decedent’s Revocable Living Trust, we may also represent the surviving spouse, children of the decedent, the estate beneficiaries, or other interested parties.
A successful estate administration will result in compliance with all probate and tax law requirements; payment of the minimum amount of tax owed; maximization of available tax deductions; and efficient delivery of the estate assets to the decedent’s intended beneficiaries, all within a reasonable timeline. This complex process can and should be achieved at a reasonable cost, and with ample explanation provided during the process to the Executor/Trustee, beneficiaries, and family members, so that they can understand the process as it unfolds.
Our attorneys and professional staff are devoted to assisting clients with the process of estate administration in order to achieve a timely and cost-effective distribution of the estate. Since the firm’s founding in 1994, Hermenze & Marcantonio LLC has settled over 250 estates, and at any given time typically has 30 estates under active administration.
The Three Components of Every Estate Administration
Broadly, there are three components to the administration of every estate, no matter how large or small the value of the estate assets. These are probate law compliance; tax compliance; and the distribution of the decedent’s assets to his or her beneficiaries, whether those beneficiaries are the surviving spouse, children, other family members, friends, charities, or trusts for the benefit of any of those parties.
Through advance planning, many clients choose to minimize the Probate Court reporting requirements to which their estate will be subjected, through the use of Revocable Living Trusts and other Will substitutes. However, while Probate Court reporting can be significantly reduced, it usually cannot be eliminated entirely.
Probate law compliance consists of applying for the probate of the decedent’s Will, and the appointment of the Executor named by the decedent, with the Probate Court. Once the Will is admitted and the Executor appointed, the Court then supervises the Executor’s administration of the estate, through a series of required reports, including the Inventory, the Return of Claims and List of Notified Creditors, and the Final Administration Accounting. The purpose of these reports is to insure that all of the decedent’s assets are accounted for, and that the decedent’s wishes as to the disposition of those assets, after the payment of debts, expenses, and taxes, as expressed in his or her Will are carried out properly by the Executor.
Our attorneys and professional staff are devoted to assisting clients with the navigation of the probate process in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Estate tax and income tax compliance usually demands the largest share of the time devoted to an estate administration.
In Connecticut, Connecticut estate tax return filings are required of every estate, even where no estate taxes are due. Federal estate tax return filings are not required of certain estates, but may be advisable even when not required, in order to preserve valuable future estate tax advantages for the benefit of a surviving spouse. Whether or not any estate taxes will be due, and what manner of reporting will be required, varies depending upon the value of the estate assets; the decedent’s state of residence; whether or not the decedent left a surviving spouse, and if so, what portion of the estate passes to that spouse; and whether or not the decedent owned real estate in other states or foreign countries. Estate tax filing and payment deadlines are fixed and very consequential.
In addition, upon a person’s death, that person’s estate, or Revocable Living Trust, becomes a new and separate income tax payer, which must report the income earned on the deceased person’s assets after his or her death. This reporting requirement for the estate and/or Revocable Living Trust continues until all assets are distributed and the estate and/or Revocable Living Trust is terminated. Thus, in addition to managing the estate tax compliance requirements described above, the Executor or Revocable Living Trust Trustee is also charged with ongoing income tax filing obligations.
Our attorneys and professional staff are devoted to assisting clients with all aspects of estate tax and estate income tax compliance in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Distribution of Assets
Probate compliance and tax compliance are, in effect, challenging roadblocks to the true purpose of an estate administration, namely the distribution of a person’s assets to his or her beneficiaries, in accordance with his or her wishes. This is the end sought by the client who has carefully crafted an estate plan, and the end sought by the beneficiaries of every estate. However, this end can sometimes be obscured by the compliance requirements. When we advise a client in connection with an estate administration, we keep this end in mind at all times, and prioritize the aspects of the administration that will achieve this end as quickly as possible within the bounds of the prudence that must be exercised by an Executor or Trustee.
The transfer of assets may involve non-probate transfers of property (such as by joint accounts, TOD accounts, and beneficiary designations); transfers pursuant to the terms of a Will which are thus reviewed by the Probate Court; transfers under the terms of a Revocable Living Trust; and transfers into new trusts created for the benefit of estate beneficiaries. Whether the transfers involve cash; readily tradeable securities, such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds; illiquid securities, such as closely held corporation shares, LLC membership interests, and partnership interests; real estate; or collectible personal property; they all involve a large amount of paperwork to document the transfer of the asset in question from its starting point (usually the name of the decedent) to its intended destination. A significant portion of the job of the estate Executor or Revocable Living Trust Trustee consists of these time-consuming tasks. While careful estate planning can reduce some of the paperwork involved in such transfers, it cannot be eliminated.
Our attorneys and professional staff are devoted to assisting clients with all aspects of estate asset distribution in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Representative Tasks in Connection with an Estate Administration
The following are tasks which Hermenze & Marcantonio LLC often performs during an estate administration.
- Initial meeting with the Executor/Revocable Living Trust Trustee and family members to obtain information about the estate and to provide an overview of the estate administration process, including probate compliance, tax compliance, and distribution steps likely involved with that estate.
- Preparing an Estate Settlement Memorandum setting forth the blueprint and timeline for the administration of the estate, including probate compliance, tax compliance, and distribution steps likely involved with that estate.
- Commencing the probate administration proceeding with the Probate Court by filing the decedent’s Will and other probate papers with the Probate Court.
- Preparing and filing the estate Inventory, Administration Account, and all other required Probate Court reports.
- Working with counsel in other jurisdictions to conduct probate proceedings as necessary.
- Preparing and filing the U.S. Estate Tax Return, Form 706.
- Preparing and filing the Connecticut Estate Tax Return, Form CT-706 or Form CT-706NT.
- Representing the estate at any examination of the federal and state estate tax returns.
- Working with the decedent’s CPA on the preparation and filing of the decedent’s final federal and state income and gift tax returns.
- Working with the decedent’s CPA on post-mortem income tax planning and the preparation and filing of federal and state fiduciary income tax returns.
- Working with out-of-state or foreign counsel on the preparation and filing of out of state or foreign estate tax returns.
- Assisting with the valuation and transfer of assets.
- Arranging for appraisals of the decedent’s tangible personal property, real estate, and other difficult to value assets.
- Assisting with the sale of assets if needed.
- Assisting with establishing and funding any continuing trusts for the benefit of estate beneficiaries.