Both probate estates and trusts must be administered by fiduciaries. Personal representatives administer probate estates, and trustees administer trusts. Probate estate administration always proceeds through the probate courts, while trust administration usually proceeds without court intervention. This remains true unless a person with a legally recognized interest (an “interested person”) seeks to have a probate court become involved in the trust administration.
In general, personal representatives administering probate estates are required to settle and distribute a decedent’s estate according to the terms of a will and applicable provisions of the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (“EPIC”), swiftly, in a well-ordered and businesslike manner, efficiently, and consistent with the best interest of the estate, allowed claimants and heirs. In performing this service, Personal Representatives must engage in a series of acts that are time consuming, can be complicated and confusing, and must be completed while adhering to a host of statutory duties.
Trustees are required to administer a trust in “good faith,” swiftly and in a well-ordered and businesslike manner, for the benefit of the trust’s beneficiaries, and in accordance with the terms of the trust, relevant provisions of EPIC and the Michigan Trust Code (“MTC”). Like Personal Representatives, Trustees must engage in a series of time-consuming acts that can be complicated and confusing and must be completed while adhering to a host of statutory duties. While some trust administrations proceed along timelines similar to probate administration (typically from a few months to a year), depending on the purpose of the Trust and the Trust’s terms, trust administrations can last for many years.
Because administering estates and trusts is complex and understanding applicable duties involves legal analysis that does not necessarily seem like “common sense,” inexperienced fiduciaries can unintentionally breach their duties and expose themselves to liability. Moreover, these fiduciary positions bring significant power and authority along with responsibility. If an unscrupulous person, or a person who simply is not able to set aside their own personal preferences or agenda, is appointed, duty breaches that compromise the rights of valid claimants, heirs, or beneficiaries occur.
I started probate practice almost a decade ago. Since then, there has never been a time that I have not been involved in matters where I am assisting fiduciaries in administering correctly, defending fiduciaries against claims of breach, or asserting the interests of beneficiaries when fiduciaries fail to fulfill their duties. No matter which role you are in with regard to an administration - fiduciary administering an estate or trust or heir/beneficiary seeking to make sure your rights and best interests are served - I can guide you through the process.