It is quite common for people to nominate a close relative or dear friend as trustee for their living trust, and most of us so named readily accept without much consideration. When that grantor, or person who created the trust, dies, you may find yourself somewhat overwhelmed by the task ahead and uncertain how to begin. Experienced trust administration attorneys can be helpful in explaining your responsibilities.
A trustee is charged with one of the highest standards of duty the law imposes as he goes about his or her job. You are managing assets that are not your own for the benefit of others according to the written terms of the trust. In general, you cannot commingle trust assets with your own, favor one beneficiary over another and must act prudently to protect trust assets until distribution is possible. In addition to the legal consultation trust administration attorneys can provide, you may also avail the professional services of others such as investment and tax consultants.
Trust administration will be based on the circumstances and language of the trust documents, but the following are some general considerations applicable for many trustees:
• Meet with legal counsel to go over the documents, and be certain you fully understand what is required.
• Make sure all family members are aware of your role.
• Collect all death benefits, such as Social Security, pension, and life insurance.
• Inform all appropriate entities of the decedent’s passing.
• Make a preliminary assessment of estate assets and determine if the decedent’s spouse and dependents have sufficient resources to maintain their lifestyle.
• It will be necessary to ascertain the value of trust assets as of the date of death; for some assets, a professional appraisal will be necessary.
• Ascertain and pay valid debts.
• Distribute assets as per the terms of the trust.
Consult Our Trust Administration Attorney for Legal Advice
Even the least complex estate must be handled properly. Your duty as a trustee is to fulfill the grantor’s last wishes to the fullest extent possible. If you have been nominated as a successor trustee, do not hesitate to reach out to Louis Pacella, a California attorney experienced in estate laws who focuses on client-centered guidance and representation. Contact us for a consultation to help counsel you through the processes you are facing as a trust administrator.