My father died and everyone in the family wants to take his belongings.
My friend died with a trust and named me as successor trustee. What is my next step? What duties do I have to her family and those named in the trust?
My mother died and now her creditors are calling me. What do I do?
What is a Trust?
A trust is an arrangement that is used to transfer a settlor’s (the person who created the trust) belongings, and property to one or more people to take care of and protect. Settlors often create a very common type of trust called a revocable trust and use it to manage their assets over the course of their lives. Family members are often appointed as the successor trustee to the trust, yet they may not have any prior knowledge of the trust and are unknowing of the responsibilities of the successor trustee. Once the settlor passes away, the trust is no longer revocable and the trust explains how the settlor’s assets will be distributed to beneficiaries. This process is called Trust Administration.
San Clemente Estate Law will thoroughly assist you through your trust administration, which is the process of guiding you through each step of the trust’s instructions upon the settlor’s death. We will handle the necessary paperwork and give the proper notices as required by law and as outlined by the terms of the trust.
Qualified beneficiaries of a trust are entitled to a copy of the trust, as well as other information relating to the trust administration. Trust provisions can be complicated, causing the trustee difficulty in ascertaining the division of assets or determining the difference between principal and income.
As a nominated successor trustee, you have the option to either accept or decline the appointment as trustee. During the trust administration, trustees have the right to be represented by an attorney.
The trust administration varies between a short, simple process to a long, complex process. The trustee has to understand their obligations to make sure that he or she is functioning legally within California statutes and the trust’s instructions. Compared to a probate administration, trust administrations can be quicker, cheaper and easier if it is performed in an efficient manner. If the trustee is careless and unprepared, the trustee will be overwhelmed and the trust administration will be long and complicated.
There are five factors that determine the complexity of a trust:
- the guidelines created by the settlor’s trust,
- the trust estate’s capacity and location,
- the total amount of beneficiaries,
- the different categories of assets, and
- if a business belongs to the settlor.
If there is a situation where the successor trustee poorly manages or incorrectly gives away the trust’s assets, the trustee may be sued for such actions. If you are the successor trustee, make sure that a trained lawyer is there to monitor and instruct you through the process.
If you are named as a successor trustee, you don’t have to become an expert. You don’t have to research the California Probate Code. You don’t have to read every book on trust administration and deal with anxious beneficiaries. San Clemente Estate Law will guide you through the administration process so you can carry out your loved one's wishes as you focus on your family during this time of loss.