This month we will continue the discussion regarding our professional experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. In my previous post, I addressed how our attorneys have continued working with clients to prepare and execute estate plans. While our attorneys have been busy putting clients’ wishes to paper, we have also been busy with another aspect of the trust and estates field – trust and estate administration.
- Court Filings
Unfortunately, when a client passes away during a pandemic, the administration of his estate and/or trust must proceed. As Hether Cahill mentioned in her previous post, with certain exceptions, our courts have accepting pleadings by e-filing. This has extended to probate filings in connection with the probate of a Will and appointment of a Personal Representative. When filing for probate all of the necessary documents may be electronically filed, and the original Will and certified death certificate of the decedent subsequently mailed to the Probate Court. The Probate Court will not issue its Letters of Authority until receipt of these original documents. In addition, for probate related pleadings that cannot necessarily be e-filed, certain courts have provided alternative electronic filing arrangements. These alternative arrangements provided by the Probate Courts have allowed us to increase our efficiency while working remotely.
- Estate Tax Filings
The Massachusetts Department of Revenue has continued to allow the electronic filing of Massachusetts Estate Tax Returns and applications for the release of real property liens. The Department of Revenue system also allows for the electronic payment of estate tax. Once reviewed and approved, the DOR has continued to timely issue Closing Letters accepting Massachusetts Estate Tax Returns as filed. Further, representatives from the DOR have continued to be accessible to address questions and issues in connection with filings.
The Internal Revenue Service continues to only accept estate tax return filings by mail. However, they do offer an option to pay federal estate tax online.
- Trust Administration
Our firm has continued to efficiently and effectively perform trust administration while working remotely. Many of our clients and the financial institutions with whom we work have remained accessible and have been able to facilitate distributions to beneficiaries in accordance with the governing document. We have continued to prepare fiduciary income tax returns for our clients and have coordinated with CPAs as necessary.
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures and the COVID-19 pandemic has given us all an opportunity to adapt to the changes around us while continuing to service our clients.