Trust Administration

Transfer titles to successor trustees, accountings and distribution to beneficiaries, assist with assets, and understanding tax options

When a person passes away and they created a trust to own their assets, the named successor trustee must take certain steps to have control of bank and brokerage accounts, real property and other assets. Titles to accounts remain in the name of the trust, but the successor trustee needs to be reflected on the account or property so that it can be managed, distributed or sold.

A trust certification detailing the new trustee is the first step in gaining control over accounts held by the deceased settlor of the trust. For real properties, an affidavit of death of trustee must be signed and recorded so the new trustee can manage, sell and distribute the property to the beneficiaries.

A trustee is required by the California probate code to give notice to all trust beneficiaries and legal heirs within 60 days of the date of death. A beneficiary or heir is entitled to receive a copy of the trust and the will upon request.

Titles to accounts are transferred, debts are paid, credit cards closed out and personal property is donated, sold or distributed to heirs as the trust or will provides.

Options that may be applicable to a trust include creation of a disclaimer trust, a bypass or credit shelter trust and a survivor’s trust and appraisals must be obtained and ultimately assets are allocated and transferred to the subtrusts as the trust document provides.

A successor trustee will manage the trust assets, file income and estate tax returns, pay income or estate taxes as required, liquidate assets, distribute assets or continue to hold assets in trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries until the time when the trust provides that they are to be distributed to beneficiaries. If a trustee mismanages the assets or takes actions that are prohibited or improper, they can be personally liable for any losses that occur. A trustee should have an attorney and a tax professional and sometimes an investment advisor to guide them regarding management of a trust.