One of the benefits of having a last will and testament is that, upon death, the interested parties in the estate’s administration are identified. In addition to detailing how a person’s assets and property are to be divided and dispersed, a will’s provisions will specify who is to carry out the tasks necessary to fulfill the person’s wishes.
After a person’s death, their assets will be gathered, business affairs settled, debts paid, necessary tax returns filed, and assets distributed as the person directed. These activities are generally carried out by an executor or trustee acting in a fiduciary capacity. The will or trust document will likely impart important directions to the fiduciary, such as which assets should be used to pay taxes and expenses. The documents will also list the fiduciary’s powers in some detail. After understanding their powers and role, the fiduciary still bears the task of addressing certain routine issues and taking specific steps to distribute the person’s assets in accordance with their wishes.
There are numerous decisions that the personal representative makes during the administration of an estate. It is crucial that the fiduciary understands the will or other documents and has a clear and firm grasp of its directives. Because the estate administration process can be complex and implicate numerous laws and guidelines, it is very helpful for the fiduciary to retain an attorney who specializes in estate or trust administration to assist them in performing their duties properly, especially since trust and estate administration can have, among other things, tax and investment implications.
Sometimes, however, complex or ambiguous subjects cannot be resolved through professional legal advice, and it becomes necessary to seek the court’s direction on a proper interpretation of the document. In such circumstances, a fiduciary or personal representative may seek what is called “aid and direction” from the court.
Typical issues requiring a suit for aid and direction include:
- Conflicting or ambiguous provisions in the will or documents;
- Confusion as to whether a particular asset is part of the decedent’s estate; and
- A determination on whether certain distributes are part of the will.
A personal representative could be personally liable for an erroneous disbursement, so seeking aid and direction from the court can be extremely helpful to ensure the assets are placed in the proper hands. If the personal representative follows the court’s order, he or she is protected from personal liability.
If you have been appointed to serve as a fiduciary, whether as the executor of a will, administrator of an estate, or trustee, contact the estate administration attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. We can help you best understand your responsibilities and advise you on the proper way to fulfill your fiduciary duties.
The Virginia estate administration attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. can represent you in a suit for aid and direction as you seek answers from the court. In most instances, reasonable attorney’s fees incurred for seeking the aid and direction of the court can be paid from the estate as a cost of its administration.
Contact the Virginia Aid and Direction attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. at (434) 817-3100 today and ask for either John B. Simpson or G. Raye Jones. We will examine the documents and use our broad base of legal expertise to help you properly fulfill your role as executor, administrator, trustee, or other fiduciary.