A properly drafted and funded trust will generally avoid probate, and in California, trusts are private documents. Unless contested, a successor trustee is most likely not required to deposit the trust with the court for safekeeping, as one would with a will. The trust document need not be recorded with the county recorder, nor does it need to be filed with the probate court, unless litigation is initiated. However, there are necessary steps that may have to be taken to administer the trust once any one of the persons who created it dies.
When the creator of a trust, called the settler, trustor or trustee, becomes incapacitated or passes away, the successor trustee who is named in the trust, has certain duties and obligations, called fiduciary duties, to fulfill. These obligations must be handled correctly in order to prevent unnecessary financial loss, to protect the trust beneficiaries, and to protect the trustee.
At The Probate House L.C. we have many years of experience and extensive knowledge of California law, which enable us to assist and support trustees/successive trustees in administering a trust.
Steps Involved In Trust Administration
At our Torrance, California, law firm, we can offer guidance and assistance to the successor trustee in administering the trust in compliance with California law, taking steps as necessary depending on the situation and the complexity of the trust:
- Heirs and trust beneficiaries may need to be notified
- Trust assets must be identified and collected
- Date of death values have to be ascertained
- Potential creditors may need to be notified
- Debts, taxes and final expenses may need to be paid
- Trust accountings may have to be prepared and distributed in accordance with the trust
- Personal income tax returns, fiduciary income tax returns and/or estate tax returns may need to be filed
- A separate tax identification number may have to be obtained from the IRS
- Distribution to beneficiaries has to be handled.
These are just a few of the steps that need to be addressed by a successor trustee. Needless to say, the issues faced by a trustee and successor trustee can be complex, and failure to handle them appropriately may result in costly litigation. The best way to avoid problems and court involvement is to seek an attorney’s counsel as to your duties as a trustee.
At The Probate House L.C. we are experienced with many different types of trust administration, including pet trusts and special needs trusts. We can take the time to talk with you about the law on trust administration, offering guidance to help you understand what actions to take.
Schedule A Free Initial Consultation To Learn More
If you are named the trustee or successor trustee of a trust, the beneficiary of a trust, or an heir of the trustor, or a creditor of the trustor, talking with an experienced lawyer is the most effective way to get answers to your questions. Call our office in Torrance, California, to arrange a free initial consultation at 424-452-2375 or fill out our online contact form.