Business First article by Braden Lammers

It could be millions of dollars or a grandma’s photo album.

But to heirs, the photo album often means more than the money. That’s according to officials with Hilliard Lyons LLC’s trust company operation in Louisville.

“The biggest conflicts are never about the money,” said Jeffrey Uhling, senior vice president and trust and estate planner for Hilliard Lyons Trust Co. in Louisville. “It’s always about the stuff.”

The trust professional’s task is to divvy the wares and money and other assets among the heirs. And with an ever-increasing senior population — or silver tsunami, as it is sometime referred to — Hilliard Lyons is planning for the future.

The company has expanded its trust operations in Louisville and recently announced that in its Cincinnati office is adding its first trust employee, an attorney and a certified financial planner to its Cincinnati office.

Hilliard Lyons has added 11 employees to its trust operations in Louisville, bringing the total employee count to 48 during the last nine months. The Cincinnati-based trust professional, Jessica Nielsen, reports to the Louisville office.

Trust and estate settlement is part of the overall financial planning process, said Don Asfahl, president of Hilliard Lyons Trust Co.

Uhling, an attorney, said that although estate settlement can be complicated, “it really boils down to what do you have, whose name is it in and what do you want to do with it?”

Asfahl said it is important to have an estate plan because if a client does not have a written plan, the state will decide who gets what.

In the course of interviewing the Hilliard Lyons officials, I began to wonder how the process worked.

I asked Deb Moore, vice president and trust specialist with Hilliard Lyons Trust Co. in Louisville, who explained how her company goes about settling the estate when it is named executor.

Once a person dies, Hilliard Lyons will send two trust officers to the person’s home to begin collecting, securing and cataloging the person’s assets, Moore explained. The assets can be anything from a toaster to a Picasso.

“We’ll try to get all of the assets that we know of, and that’s where estate planning comes in handy,” Moore said. “You have a list of all assets.”

Whatever is collected is cataloged and put in a vault at Hilliard Lyons while the settlement process is completed. Appraisers are used to place a value on the items collected.

Settling an estate can also mean making funeral arrangements, dealing with angry relatives, finding homes for the individual’s pets and paying the bills for a surviving spouse, Moore said.

Little surprise, then, that Uhling said it is not a short process.

The collection and cataloging process usually takes more than a month.

Meanwhile, Uhling or another attorney will go through the settlement process of notifying those named in a will or a trust and filing the will in probate court — usually within two to four weeks. That triggers a six-month period during which creditors can claim assets of the estate.

After creditors are paid, disbursements to heirs can begin, unless an estate tax return needs to be filed. The threshold for needing to file a federal estate tax return is $5.34 million in total assets.

If a federal estate tax return must be filed, you can probably count on two and a half years or more before the estate is settled, Uhling said. Unless, of course, the IRS decides to audit the estate. If no estate tax returns are filed, most are done within a year, he added.

“You can’t officially close the estate until you get a closing letter from the IRS,” said Leslie Coyle, senior vice president and managing director of trust services for Hilliard Lyons Trust Co.

As the financial planners work with those heirs, Asfahl said, the hope is that they will develop a relationship to help the next generation through the estate planning process.


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