Houck Menninger Law

Your Estate Settlement Roadmap

Our first meeting, designed to allow us to get to learn about your loved one, your family, and the goals and challenges you may be facing in settling the estate. You will have questions of us, and we’ll have questions of you, as we work together in the estate settlement process. We will also review our process and fee structure with you. If we ultimately choose not to work together, that’s OK. If we do decide to work together, we give you homework and move on to Step 2...

This step has 2 parts:

1. A meeting with a member of our team to sign the fee agreement and submit the initial retainer to help cover initial costs. You’ll also provide us with the homework you’ve completed.

2. A follow-up meeting in which we provide an analysis of the legal documents directing the estate, including wills and trusts. We will also have initial court filings and/or notices as required by law ready for review and signing so we can get started.

This is where we begin the true “settlement” work. We’ll review the Master Worksheet with you, making sure we’ve identified all assets and debts. We’ll need to know the present value of all assets. We’ll also discuss the plan for each asset. If an debts are to be paid, we’ll discuss when and how to fund those payments. We will need to update the Master Worksheet as assets are discovered, liquidated, or change in value. We will also collaborate with any financial advisor or other representative through this process.

This step may involve various meetings at different times throughout the process. It’s important for us that we link up with the other advisors involved in the settlement process, including insurance agents, financial advisors, and tax professionals. A fiduciary has a responsibility to protect trust/estate assets, to invest prudently, and to understand how income taxes change after death. From discussing investment strategies during the settlement phase (or for trusts created for beneficiaries upon death), to conversations about step-up in cost basis and tax returns for a trust and/or probate estate, it’s vital that advisors to the fiduciary are all on the same page. We’ll communicate and collaborate with them along the way.

The final step in the Estate Settlement Process ensures all assets are distributed according to the terms of the Will or Trust, including specific items and cash gifts. We will prepare an accounting that will need to be reviewed and approved by the beneficiaries before we close the estate. We remain available to discuss lingering questions, or there may be other estate planning opportunities you’d like to discuss. This is the end of the journey, but we’re always happy to help!