If you have recently been named the trustee of a loved one’s trust, there are some essential responsibilities that you will have in order to fulfill your duties as the trustee. It can be helpful to know what to expect about the trust administration process before meeting with the attorney for the initial trust administration consultation.
The California estate planning attorneys at Galanti and Copenhaver are here to assist you with all of your estate planning needs. Our attorneys have many years of experience assisting trustees with their trust administration duties. Contact our law office today to schedule a consultation to meet with an attorney at our office and learn more about how we can help you navigate the trust administration process.
What Is Trust Administration?
Trust administration is the name for the process of settling the trust and ensuring the assets are accurately distributed to the beneficiaries of the trust. The trustee or the successor trustee is responsible for administering the trust after the death of the creator of the trust, also referred to as the decedent.
Some of the trustee’s duties include paying taxes, settling any debts, transferring property titles, and other administrative tasks that the trustee must complete to settle the estate of the deceased creator of the trust. The trustee must adhere to the guidelines outlined in the trust documents.
Trustee Checklist to Complete Prior to Initial Trust Administration Consultation with Attorney
Before you meet with the attorney for the initial trust administration consultation, there are a few tasks that you should complete. By getting these tasks completed before the meeting, you can save time and make the process easier for yourself and everyone else involved.
Gather All Official Documents and Records
The first essential step you should take prior to meeting with your attorney is locating and gathering all official documents and records needed to move forward with settling the trust. These documents include:
- A certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate
- A copy of the decedent’s birth certificate and their social security number
- Last will and testament along with all trust documents, including any trust amendments and the Certification of Trust
- Financial records and documents such as any life insurance policies, IRAs and 401k account statements, annuity contracts, retirement plan documents, and pension plan statements
- Copies of the decedent’s brokerage and bank statements as of the date of the decedent’s death
- The decedent’s federal and state tax returns for the previous year
- Valuations obtained for the decedent’s assets as of the date of their death (if any)
- Copies of property title deeds, such as real estate or timeshare interests, and any vehicle titles
Combine Contact Information for Beneficiaries into One List
Once you have found and gathered all of the official documents and records listed above, another important step is to gather the beneficiaries’ contact information. Making sure you have all of this information right from the start is extremely helpful and will allow you to keep the beneficiaries in the loop throughout the process. Keeping all of the contact information in one list is a simple way to stay organized and fulfill your trustee duties.
Compile List of Creditors and Debts
Next, you should compile a list of all creditors and detailed information regarding any debts. Every situation is different, and it is possible that the grantor of the trust for which you are trustee did not have any debts at the time of their passing—and therefore, there will not be any creditors involved.
However, even if there are no known creditors immediately after the decedent passes, it does not mean you have completed your job. Potential creditors have a specific time period in which they can come forward with evidence of a debt they are owed.
Carefully Review the Trust Agreement
Prior to meeting with your attorney, you should also take the time to review the trust agreement carefully. Be sure that you understand the agreement and what your duties as trustee will entail.
Hire a Financial Advisor
As the trustee, you owe a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust to manage the trust properly. For this reason, it can be advantageous to reach out to a financial advisor and hire them to help you make sure that you are appropriately managing the trust funds and that you are fulfilling your duties as a trustee from a financial standpoint.