You Were Just Made Trustee…Now What?
- Estate Planning, Wills & Trusts
- October 21, 2021
A family member has just passed away and now you are asked to make what feels like a million decisions, and quickly! Everything from writing an obituary, making the funeral plans, deciding on cremation or burial arrangements, and coordinating with relatives, clergy, friends, family, and more. There is barely time to grieve, let alone think about your duties as the new Trustee. Some may find the very task of gathering everything together overwhelming and wonder “Where do I even start?”
The vast majority of Trustee tasks do not require an attorney, but professional advice will help as you get to work on things like investing trust funds, filing taxes, preparing reports, and moving property to the trust. Additionally, you may need help to establish sub-trusts for minor or special needs beneficiaries. All of these tasks will be much easier with the help of a trust attorney and a CPA.
Trust administration can be completed in a matter of months depending on the trust’s requirements and how quickly debts can be settled and distributions made. In other circumstances trusts must remain open and viable for a number of years and be maintained over that period of time by the Trustee. If you find yourself in the position of having to keep a trust open beyond a year, there are steps your legal team can take to streamline your tasks. These details and more can be ironed out in a few quick visits with your attorney, CPA, and financial advisor.
Possibly, the Executor of the Will and the Trustee are one in the same. If not, it becomes important for you as the Trustee to work closely with the Executor to administer the estate. The Executor may need to probate the estate in order to settle claims and move assets to the trust that may have been left out either intentionally or accidentally.
In most cases Trustee duties will not be emergent so take some time to develop an administration plan. Below you’ll find a list of initial tasks that will need to be addressed.
TRUSTEE CHECKLIST – Top 20 Initial Tasks
- Find the original signed copy of your loved one’s Will
- Get multiple copies of their Death Certificate
- File the Will with the appropriate court if a probate is required
- Notify the Social Security Administration of the death
- Register the trust if required by your state
- Acquire a tax number for the trust or estate
- Identify and notify the beneficiaries and heirs (they are entitled to see the trust)
- Notify any state agency if the decedent was receiving benefits
- Make an inventory of the trust’s assets; accounts, real property, personal property, business holdings, etc.
- Get an appraisal of the assets as needed
- Review the estate’s financial information with a CPA (preferably the decedent’s)
- Secure and protect the estate’s property so things don’t “disappear”
- Determine if there are any outstanding debts or creditors of the estate
- Create a payment schedule for debts
- Often creditors will negotiate debts, so become a deal maker!
- Work with the Executor to move assets in to your name as Trustee
- Calendar important payment deadlines like property tax payments
- Put together a filing system to organize all the documents you’ll be collecting
- Set a regular schedule for updating the beneficiaries and check for statutory minimum requirements
- Contact a Trust Administration Attorney to reduce your liability in your decision making
We have offices in the Salt Lake Valley and Tooele Valley to serve you. Let our team help you navigate the Trustee journey. Schedule your FREE initial consultation.
Want to learn more? Click here to read about what sets a trust apart from a standard will.