WHAT TO DO WHEN A LOVED ONE PASSES AWAY AND YOU ARE THE TRUSTEE?
Trust administration is the process of executing the wishes of a decedent and managing a trust’s affairs after someone passes away. The person who is responsible for following the trust’s terms and handling the trust’s business is called a Trustee.
The first thing a Trustee should do is make an appointment with a trust attorney so that the terms of the trust are understood and a list of legally required items and deadlines can be calendared. A Trustee will need certain paperwork prepared so they can demonstrate to third parties like banks and beneficiaries that they are the person in charge of these assets and decisions. We typically advise that a Trustee come into our office approximately 7-20 days after someone passes away. It is our experience that the unknown is more scary and stressful to the family and once they meet with our expert attorneys they feel a sense of calm and order.
If you ever find yourself suddenly and unexpectedly the trustee of a trust, chances are you will become overwhelmed by the responsibility. As a trustee you will need to marshall assets, pay any and all valid debts, dispute invalid debts, pay taxes and wind-up business affairs of the decedent and even liquidate assets so you can distribution to the beneficiaries. An important note is that not only will you have important legal process to complete but since a trustee is seen as a legal fiduciary with the highest standard of good faith and fair dealing to the beneficiaries, a trustee may also face liability for not complying with the law or the terms of the trust. There are strict timeline and record-keeping obligations by the trustee, which is why it is imperative to seek help from a trust attorney early in the process.
With smaller trusts, a trustee may only need 2-3 meetings with a trust attorney to set them on the right path. Larger or more complicated estates may require more ongoing involvement with a trust attorney, which is deemed an appropriate trust expense.
The attorneys at N·M LAW, APC are both determined and passionate about ensuring the clients are satisfied and confident in executing their role as trustee. Call our offices today so we can ensure your trust administration process is as smooth and efficient as possible.