Trust Administration Attorney
When a person passes away and they established a trust before their death, it may be time to administer the trust. Trust administration is generally required after the death of the settlor or grantor of a living trust or an irrevocable trust. There are many legal steps a successor trustee must take in order to protect themselves from potential personal liability. A trustee has a fiduciary duty concerning the administration of the trust. As a trustee, you are not responsible for the legal fees unless the trust provides that you are. Fortunately, working with trust administration attorney is a straightforward process that should provide the successor trustee peace of mind throughout the process.
The Beginning of the Trust Administration
In California, trust administration begins with providing the beneficiaries notice that the settlor has passed away. California law states that such notice shall be sent within 60 days of the death of a settlor. It is a good idea to provide a copy of the trust with the notice. The person or organization you are notifying has a set time from the date of mailing to contest the trust. If they do not contest the trust within that time, the noticed individual or organization may forfeit their right to dispute the trust. If you do not notice the required persons or organizations, the statute of limitations for the recipient is extended. Many trustees that handle the administration of a trust without a trust administration attorney do not provide this critical notice.
What Does the Successor Trustee Do When the Trust Holds Real Property?
Where the living trust or irrevocable trust holds real property, many steps must be taken to ensure title is vested in the successor trustee. This will allow the successor trustee to manage, sell, or distribute the real property as part of the trust administration. It is essential that the proper documents be recorded and the proper forms be provided to the county assessor’s office.
How Does a Successor Trustee Identify and Handle the Assets of the Trust?
The successor trustee must identify all trust assets. This includes bank accounts, stocks, bonds, investment accounts, etc. The title any identifiable assets must be transferred into the successor trustee’s name. Generally, the successor trustee will need to obtain a federal tax identification number for the trust unless it already has one.
What If Some Assets Were Not Transferred to the Trust?
During the trust administration process, you may discover the decedent failed to retitle some assets in the name of his or her trust prior to their death. These assets generally remain part of the decedent’s estate and may need to go through the probate process. The new trustee may be able to petition the probate court to confirm the assets as part of the trust. If not, the use of a Will with a “pour-over” provision will come in handy. A pour-over will provides that any assets not transferred to the trust during the decedent’s life will be transferred to the trust at death. These assets will be distributed according to the terms of the trust.
It is important to a living trust is revocable while the person(s) who created the trust are alive and well. Once they do not have the capacity or die, the trust generally becomes irrevocable. The law in California requires a successor trustee to account to beneficiaries and, in general, the IRS.
To properly account for trust assets and debts, you will need to:
- Determine the proper accounting method called for in the trust document
- Keep relevant and accurate records
- Be able to account for all assets and any disbursements
Regardless if the trust calls for an accounting or not, you may be legally required to account to the beneficiaries. A trust accounting differs from that of a typical accounting. Thus, most accountants will not be able to assist you. As a successor trustee administering a trust, you want to make sure there is an accurate final accounting. Our trust administration attorney can help you with this critical step.
Contact Our Trust Administration Attorney
As a successor trustee, administering a trust is most often is a confusing and complicated legal procedure. For most, it is also overwhelming at times. Many times, conflicts arise among trust beneficiaries and can result in personal liability of the trustee if the trust is not adequately defended. The Law Office of Justin Anton McCrea will assess your trust administration needs. Mr. McCrea takes pride in administering trusts in an efficient and affordable manner. Call our trust administration attorney at 916-601-9441.