How does West Virginia probate work?
There is always grief and pain caused by the loss of a loved one. When hiring Pritt & Spano, the responsibilities or duties of an executor or administrator of an estate can be to reduce the level of stress during the probate process. The fundamental duties of a personal representative (also known as an "executor") of an estate are the same as those of a trustee-protecting the assets and interests of the beneficiaries.
A personal representative is required to prepare and file an inventory and a list of claims after the representative is approved by the court. The timeframe for this important chore is set by statute. This inventory should detail all of the assets subject to probate. The property must be valued and even appraised as necessary. The claims include debts due and owing to the estate. The inventory provides both potential beneficiaries and creditors of the estate an idea of the estate's assets and claims. [Beneficiaries want to know what they might get from the estate and creditors want to know if there is enough money to get paid.] If the inventory is filed late, the representative could be fined and removed, which would slow down the process.
One thing to realize if you are a beneficiary is that the will may be "read" a few days after the funeral, but the gifts and bequests are not given out at that time. The beneficiaries may be entitled to the assets, but the inheritance is subject to the estate's administration. The representative must settle the decedent's debts and claims before he or she can make any distribution of the assets. The representative is doing their job by making sure everything stays where it is until probate is closed.
The representative must also keep the administration process moving along by settling all of the decedent's debts. They must give proper notices to creditors, to include making publication in the appropriate newspaper and sending written notice to known secured creditors by certified mail. Secured and unsecured creditors have different regulations on how they must be noticed and paid.
The representative must keep the beneficiaries in the loop, to include providing each with notice via certified mail that the will has been admitted to probate and a copy of the will. In addition, the representative must inform the beneficiaries regarding any information that might affect their rights. Beneficiaries have the right to ask for a formal accounting by the independent executor.
The representative is responsible for the care and maintenance of estate property, treating it with even greater care than his or her own property. The representative is able to sell any property that is perishable or would deteriorate in value during the West Virginia probate process.
Being a representative is a tough job. Consequently, he or she can be removed if proven to have been guilty of any gross misconduct or mismanagement in the role of representative. The representative may be subject to a suit for breach of fiduciary duty. Along the way, there are taxes to be paid and returns to be filed, along with many other details.
The probate and estate administration process is tedious, technical and filled with potential pitfalls that can slow the process or even derail the entire estate. At Pritt & Spano, we are experienced probate and estate administration attorneys that can handle this process for you in your time of need.
A special needs trust or supplemental needs trust specifically protects the interests of disabled loved ones, young and old. At this time, every trust that we draft has springing special needs trust provisions built into it. When our clients' disabled, elderly, or chronically ill family members collect trust funds or make use of trust assets, they are generally able to retain their Medicaid or other means-tested government benefits and avoid Medicaid transfer penalties.
Special needs trusts, sometimes referred to as "Medicaid trusts," allow families to protect assets and the livelihood of family members. You do not need to spend down, sell family assets, or risk financial penalties for a family member to qualify for Medicaid. We can help you secure long-term health care benefits for your loved one(s) without ever having to worry about their impoverishment or quality of care.
At Pritt & Spano we are committed to our special needs clients by providing them the greatest possible access to the trust funds when they are needed.