The following information may be helpful for claims involving a Trust or Estate.

What is the difference between a Trust, a Last Will and Testament, and an Estate?

  • A Trust is a legal arrangement under which one or more people, called “Trustees,” hold assets for beneficiaries. A person who creates a Trust is called a “Grantor,” “Settlor” or “Trustor.”
  • A Last Will and Testament is a document that directs who should receive your property from your estate upon your death. It appoints a legal representative (often called an “Executor” or “Personal Representative”) to carry out your wishes; however, that appointment is not official until it is approved by a probate court.
  • An Estate is all property and assets a person owns at death that does not pass under a right of survivorship, beneficiary designation or transfer on death designation. It is managed by an Executor, Administrator or Personal Representative, appointed by a probate court, who manages the assets until they are distributed to the persons entitled to the Estate.

How do I know if we have to open a formal Estate?

  • A Last Will and Testament nominates a person as a proposed Executor or Personal Representative, but until appointed by a probate court that person does not hold any powers over the decedent’s assets.
  • A probate court will issue a document, often called Letters Testamentary or Letters of Appointment or Letters or Authority, which will empower the Executor(s), Administrator or Personal Representative to act on behalf of the deceased person’s Estate.
  • Each state has different regulations and dollar limits for when an Estate must be opened through the probate court. Some states allow for transfers of small Estates without probate court involvement. In order to find out the options for small estates, contact the probate court in the county where the decedent was a resident.

Do I need to get a separate Tax Identification Number for the Trust or Estate?

  • If the claimant is an Estate, the Estate need to have a Tax Identification Number in order for us to complete any tax reporting and in order for the Executor to file tax returns for the Estate.
  • If the claimant is a Trust created by one Grantor who has passed away, the Trust will require a Tax Identification Number.
  • If the claimant is a Trust created by joint Grantors, the Trust may split into a survivor trust and a decedent’s marital, family or credit shelter trust. Upon the death of one of the Grantors, the Trust will generally require a Tax Identification Number. However, we may be able to use the surviving Grantor’s Social Security number, if the benefit is going to be allocated to the all survivor’s Trust, and we receive certification that other assets of equal value are being used to fund the decedent’s marital, family or credit shelter trust.

How do I apply for a Tax Identification Number (TIN)?

Visit IRS.gov to find the necessary steps.

How do I go about opening an Estate?

There may be different requirements and forms, depending on where the decedent resided. Please contact the probate court in the county where the decedent was a resident to learn more about your specific requirements.