Over the past several years, the budget axe has fallen upon our Surrogate’s courts. The loss of personnel has resulted in huge backlogs in clerks’ offices. A simple application for Letters of Administration may literally take months during which time it may be impossible to insure property of the estate. An application to sell the decedent’s real property may languish for months during which time the costs of maintenance, taxes, and insurance, need to be covered, rents may have to be collected and mortgages paid. During this elapse of time, contracts of sale may fail. Vacant property may be vandalized.
Contrast this with the revocable trust which provides for a seamless administration of the decedent’s estate without the delay and expense of a probate or administration proceeding. The trustee appointed by the creator of the trust has the power to take all of the steps needed to either continue the business of the estate or to wind it up without costly and time consuming delays. The Surrogate’s Court remains available in the event that a person interested in the trust seeks an accounting from a trustee or seeks redress for a breach of fiduciary duty but all in all, the revocable trust has come to be a far more reliable vehicle than a probate or administration proceeding.