Estate Planning

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Kent County Estate Planning Attorneys

Estate administration is the process of probating the estate of a decedent, which generally includes collecting, inventorying and appraising assets; paying and collecting debts; filing and paying estate taxes; and distributing any remaining assets to beneficiaries. The Law Office of Devane, Fogarty & Ribezzo can help simplify this complicated process.

The probate estate consists of all of the property (of any type or description) that is owned by the decedent at his or her death and that has not already been set up to transfer automatically at death. Assets that often transfer automatically at death could include bank accounts or other assets specifically designated to transfer in this fashion or assets held through a trust but most often include real estate held with a right of survivorship or insurance policies with a named beneficiary. Probate assets are subject to the jurisdiction of the probate court and are distributed according to the terms of a valid will or Rhode Island’s intestacy law. Non-probate assets transfer directly to the designee outside of the purview of the probate court.

Small Estates

Rhode Island provides for an informal process of probating an estate when the value of assets held (exclusive of tangible personal property) is $15,000 or less. Though the process is a quicker and far less complicated process of probating an estate, it still often makes sense to involve an attorney. Costs are often minimal.

Once a person dies, the estate is submitted to the probate court. If there is a will, the probate court will determine if the will is valid and then oversee the administration of the estate by the executor (the person appointed in the will by the decedent to oversee the estate). If there is no will or the will is determined to be invalid, the probate court will appoint an administrator and the decedent’s property will be distributed according to the state’s laws of inheritance.

An executor is the person names by a decedent in a will in charge of administering the estate. The role is titled administrator if the decedent died intestate and the Court needs to make the appointment. He or she is, at its essence, in charge of the following:

  • Gathering and inventorying all assets of the estate
  • Appraising the assets
  • Collecting any payments or debts owed to the estate
  • Paying any debts owed by the estate
  • Filing and paying local, state and federal taxes
  • Distributing assets to the beneficiaries as stipulated in the will

The executor owes fiduciary duties to anyone who has an interest in the estate. This means that the executor owes a duty of loyalty and must act in the best interests of the estate. For example, if the executor mismanages estate assets and causes the estate to lose value, he or she can be held liable for these actions and may have to repay the estate the amount of the lost value.

Preparing to Meet with Your Estate Planning Attorney

As you get ready for your first meeting with an estate planning lawyer, you should plan to bring certain documents and information with you. This information will help your attorney develop an estate plan suitable to your specific situation and goals. This list is only meant to be a guide, and there may be additional information your attorney will request.

  • Financial Information (including account names, numbers, balances and current statements)
  • Bank accounts
  • Investment accounts (annuities, mutual funds)
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • U.S. Treasury notes
  • Retirement Savings Information (including balances, beneficiaries, outstanding loans and current statements)
  • 401(k) accounts
  • 403(b) accounts
  • IRAs
  • Life insurance policies
  • Social Security statement
  • Pension
  • Property Information (including property description, address, ownership interest, market value, outstanding mortgage balance and most recent tax assessment)
  • Primary residence
  • Rental properties
  • Vacation homes
  • Business property
  • Personal property of value (antiques, collectibles, automobiles, jewelry, art)
  • Inheritance (current or anticipated)
  • Interest in trust (current or future)
  • Business Information (including interest in the business, location)
  • Closely-held business
  • Family business
  • Limited partnership
  • Family Information (including names, ages, addresses)
  • Spouse
  • Ex-spouse
  • Children
  • Stepchildren
  • Grandchildren

Other things to consider

  • Who would you like to receive your property?
  • Is there anyone you would not want to receive your property?
  • Do you want to leave anything to a charity, university, church or other organization?
  • Who would you like to serve as executor of your will?
  • Who would you like to serve as trustee over any trusts? Alternate?
  • Would you like to appoint a guardian to care for any minor children?
  • Do you want to create a living will and a durable health care power of attorney?
  • Do you want to assign other powers of attorney, such as for your finances?
  • Do you want to leave instructions for your funeral arrangements?
  • Do you want to donate your organs or donate your body to science?
  • Who would you like to serve as alternate executor, trustee, guardian or power of attorney if your first choice is unavailable or unable to fulfill the duties?

In the event that one or more named beneficiaries predecease you leaving issue (children), do you want the share assigned to them to pass to their children or to be split among the remaining living beneficiaries?

Finally, consider your overall goals and desires for your estate plan. This will help guide your estate planning attorney in developing a comprehensive plan tailored to meet your individual needs.

Return to Trusts | Or continue to Guardianship

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