Advice of counsel is often sought out by clients serving in a fiduciary role such as executor, administrator or trustee. Our attorneys and paralegals provide experienced guidance on legal and tax issues which arise in the administration of estates and trusts so that our clients may meet their fiduciary obligations to the beneficiaries, the courts, and the government. Our attorneys will serve in those fiduciary roles when appointed by clients, beneficiaries, resigning trustees or the courts.
PROBATE ESTATE ADMINISTRATION
Our attorneys and paralegals assist fiduciary clients in the administration of probate estates, as well as non-probate assets of a decedent, on a daily basis. We advise executors and administrators regarding the performance of their basic fiduciary responsibilities, as well as on the more complex issues, including spousal elective share claims, sales of real property, and challenges to the provisions or the validity of the Will. Our paralegals support clients serving in these roles with the preparation and filing of fiduciary accountings, maintenance of records acquired in the administration of the estate, and handling responsibilities to the beneficiaries of the estate.
There are many types of trusts for many intended purposes, some of which are decidedly complex in their structure, funding and administration. Trustees who have been appointed to administer these trusts seek legal and tax counsel to advise them regarding their fiduciary duties, to interpret trust provisions, to protect the trust estate or, in the proper case, to terminate the trust. Our paralegals serve in significant supporting roles to assist trustee clients with the preparation of fiduciary accountings, the acquisition and compilation of trust administration records, the making of timely distributions to beneficiaries, and the coordination with financial representatives to ensure efficiency in transactions involving the investments in trust.
In addition to the legal guidance rendered to our fiduciary clients, we also provide experienced counsel and paralegal services for the preparation of fiduciary accountings for estates and trusts as an essential component of our practice. Our collaboration with executors and trustees provides the synergies necessary for accurate and timely fiduciary accountings, which are required by law to be filed with the Commissioners of Accounts and to be distributed to beneficiaries of the estate or trust.
FIDUCIARY INCOME TAX RETURNS
Executors and trustees must file fiduciary income tax returns (Form 1041 for Federal and Form 770 for Virginia returns) each year to report items of income and expense recognized by the estate or trust for which they are responsible. We assist fiduciary clients with the investigation and compilation of tax reporting documents and data necessary to prepare accurate income tax returns for the estate or trust. We also advise fiduciary clients regarding the alternatives for mitigating income tax rates and liabilities as between the trust and the beneficiaries whenever possible.
REPRESENTATION OF FIDUCIARIES
One of our primary practice areas is the representation of all manner of fiduciaries, most of whom are serving as executors, administrators and trustees, while others are court-appointed conservators and agents under powers of attorney. These fiduciaries consult with our attorneys for advice and guidance regarding their responsibilities and obligations under the governing legal instrument or the statutory provisions under the Virginia Code. Our well-trained paralegals serve in significant support roles to clients in meeting their fiduciary obligations.
ATTORNEYS AS EXECUTOR AND TRUSTEE
Many clients ask their attorneys to agree to be nominated as executor and trustee under their new wills and trusts because they prefer independent fiduciary management of their assets. These appointments require first that certain advice and disclosures be made in writing by the attorney and then the endorsement by the client of the disclosure letter. Under certain circumstances and with proper disclosures, we will agree to be nominated as an alternate or successor fiduciary or co-fiduciary in a client’s estate planning documents. Our Firm has a Fiduciary Fee Schedule which provides structure and consistency to the fees and costs for attorneys serving in these roles.