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Navigating a successful journey of administrating an estate takes patience and skill.  Here is a list of five key people to help you avoid the hidden dangers.

Accountant

See an accountant to help you set up an easy bookkeeping and record keeping system for managing the estate.  You’ll have to prepare a final accounting for all the beneficiaries, and possibly the court.  Creating a good system from the start will save you a lot of trouble later.  Also, you’ll want to discuss the tax returns that the estate will need to file.

Estate Attorney

Select a qualified estate planning and administration firm and schedule an appointment.  Some offices will offer a free initial consultation.  The attorney will want to review the Trustor’s estate planning documents, go over any disclaimer or other possible tax planning with you, and determine if a Court probate will be required for any assets not in the Trust name.  Estate plans often allow for additional estate tax planning at the death of the first spouse, so it is important to discuss taking any necessary steps with an attorney.

Financial Advisor

It is amazingly easy to accidentally create a huge tax bill or other negative financial consequences for yourself and other beneficiaries by withdrawing or rolling over retirement plan benefits.  A financial advisor will evaluate how you can best handle the withdrawal schedule or rollover.  If things aren’t handled properly, you could end up paying income tax on the entire amount.

Appraiser

For your own protection as trustee, you’ll want to have a good valuation on key assets, like any real estate, or valuables such as artwork and collectors’ items.  Not only will the beneficiaries benefit from having the input of an objective valuation, there are significant advantages to dealing with the IRS with a documented valuation.

Insurance Agent

You’ll want to check with the current insurance agent to ensure that all liability, fire, homeowner’s and personal property insurance policies continue to be in force and effect.  As Successor Trustee you may need to have the policies “endorsed” to the Trust, and name you as the Successor Trustee.  It is probably a good idea to have the agent review the policies in place to be sure that they are adequate during the time you’re responsible.

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