An estate belonging to an individual or couple with a living trust can generally avoid most of the complex issues of probate when one of them passes away. However, there is still a formal process that must be followed in order to legally carry out the intent of the trust. This process is known as Trust Administration or Trust Settlement.
Even when a Successor Trustee has been appointed to oversee the administration, it can often seem like a daunting task, with numerous actions and court deadlines to meet. If you find yourself in this position, having an experienced estate attorney in your corner can be a tremendous relief—I will serve as your guide to ensure that all necessary actions are being implemented in the right order at the proper time. Executors and trustees share many of the same administrative responsibilities, including:
- Creating an inventory of assets and their value at the time of the decedent’s death.
- Securing and preserving the decedent’s property.
- Satisfying any outstanding obligations to the decedent’s creditors.
- Preparing periodic accountings to beneficiaries.
- Keeping beneficiaries reasonably informed about administration.
- Litigating on behalf of the estate or trust if necessary.
- Making timely distributions to beneficiaries.
Both executors and trustees are fiduciaries, which means that they have a duty to always act in the beneficiaries’ best interests. If they don’t, they could be sued. The best way to avoid such situations is to have skilled estate and trust administration attorneys on your team to guide you and assist with your duties. Executors and trustees almost always have the right to pay for the services of attorneys and other professionals with estate or trust funds, so long as their services provided a benefit to the estate or trust, respectively.
I can help you locate and manage required notices and filings, identify the estate assets, determine which outstanding debts and tax liabilities need to be paid, and advise you on the distribution of assets to all beneficiaries named in the trust.