- What is a Trust Administration?
When a Trustor dies, the state of California requires that the Trustee of the Trust take some actions. The extent of these actions depends upon whether the Trust becomes irrevocable at the death of the Trustor or if the Trust provides specific actions for the Trustee to take upon the death. We recommend that upon a death of a Trustor, the Trustee schedule a meeting with an attorney within the first month to discuss the legal requirements upon death and what actions the Trustee needs to take.
- What is the role of a Trustee?
The Trustee is the manager of the Trust. For a Living Trust that our office prepared, the Successor Trustee list will often be found in Article Three, Section 4. The Trustee has a fiduciary duty to follow the terms of the Trust and to act in the best interests of the Trust beneficiaries. The Trustee has additional responsibilities and duties that should be discussed with an attorney to make sure that the Trustee fully understands what they need to do and when they need to do it. Please note that in a Trust Administration, our office only represents the Trustee, we do not represent the beneficiaries.
- How many death certificates do we need?
As a general rule of thumb, you should get one for each real property owned by the decedent plus a few extras to deal with any life insurance, retirement accounts, and bank accounts. Most financial institutions do not need to keep the death certificate, instead they just need to see the death certificate to confirm it is valid. Non-local or online only institutions may require you to mail an original death certificate to them.
- What assets pass through the court death probate?
Decedent’s assets valued over $184,500, if those assets are not titled in the name of a Living Trust, or if there is no beneficiary listed, or there is no surviving joint owner.
- What if the assets outside of the Trust are worth less than $184,500?
Then a small estate affidavit may be needed. Many banks have their own forms that they want you to use. We recommend working with an attorney as there are formal legal requirements that must be satisfied to use a small estate affidavit.
- How do I get access to a decedent’s trust bank accounts?
We recommend that the attorney prepare a certificate of trust or summary document to be signed before a notary and then presented to the financial institution. This certificate of trust will inform the financial institution of the successor/current Trustee and provide other information that the financial institution will need. You would also need to show the death certificate.
- Can funeral expenses and other bills be personally paid by the Trustee?
It often takes a Successor Trustee about a month from date of death to get access to the decedent’s Trust bank accounts as the Successor Trustee will need to show a death certificate and we recommend that they also show a certificate of trust. This means that the Trustee may often find the need to temporarily use their own money to pay for the decedent’s expenses and then the Trustee will reimburse themselves once they get access to the decedent’s Trust bank accounts. Many Trustees will put these expenses on their personal credit card with the goal that they will get access to the decedent’s accounts before the credit card payment becomes due.
- Does the decedent’s trust need a new taxpayer identification number (TIN) and if so, how does the Trustee get it?
It depends. A living trust uses the trustor’s social security number as the tax identification number. If there is no surviving trustor, then yes, the trust will need a new TIN. If one Trustor is still living then a new TIN may or may not be needed, we recommend talking with an attorney to make the determination. If a new TIN is needed, we recommend that the Trustee work with an attorney and/or CPA to request the TIN from the IRS as there are tax choices that must be made when applying for the TIN.
- How do I retitle a decedent’s car [to transfer or sell it]?
The DMV has a simple form to complete. If you are a member of AAA, they may make the process even easier for you. Please note there is a mandatory 40-day waiting period after death before this process may be started. We recommend consulting with an attorney before proceeding with this process.
- How do I get on title to a decedent’s home [to transfer or sell it]?
Assuming the home is correctly titled in the name of the living trust then an affidavit of death of trustee will need to be prepared, signed before a notary and recorded with the county recorder’s office. As a mistake in this step may cause issues with title that prevent you from being able to sell the property, we highly recommend working with an attorney.
- Is there a time limit after a death within which a trust administration must take place?
The law requires that some tax decisions be made within nine (9) months of the decedent’s death. Other trust administration tasks are to be completed within a “reasonable” time. To determine what actions the Trustee needs to take and when they need to take those actions, we recommend that the Trustee meet with an attorney.
- Why is my inheritance held in a trust?
An asset protected inheritance subtrust is often held for a beneficiary’s Health, Education, Maintenance, and Support. Some beneficiaries may fear that parents did not trust them with managing their inheritance but instead the vast majority are merely trying to provide an extra level of protection for you. In fact, the asset protected inheritance subtrust offers a level of protection that you cannot give yourself. As the inheritance may be used for your Health, Education, Maintenance, and Support, these categories cover everything you would want to use your inheritance towards while still providing protections for the inheritance.