Administering your Trust Upon Your Death

Tuesday Aug 11, 2020

After the creation and funding of your trust, administering your trust is the next most important activity to occur.  You may wonder what is involved when your successor trustee administers your revocable living trust following your death.  Here are some of the primary actions your successor trustee will need to take:

Tasks and Notifications

The initial tasks of trust administration entail securing your estate and sending various notifications as required by California law.

  1. Arrange for the on-going care of your pets; secure your home; and make the final arrangements for the disposition of your body.
  2. Order several Death Certificates through the mortuary to be used in connection with closing financial accounts and transferring title to real property.
  3. Mail out “Notice to Beneficiary/Heir” letters, as required by California law, to inform your beneficiaries that the administration of your trust has begun.
  4. Notify the California Department of Health Care Services, as required by California law, if you received or may have received any benefits from Medi-Cal.

Transferring Title to the Successor Trustee and Paying Bills

Trust administration typically requires that the trustee ascertain the date of death value for each of the assets in your trust estate and prepare an accounting of trust transactions which is often provided to the beneficiaries of the trust near the end of the administration.

  1. Obtain preliminary value of your estate to determine whether a federal estate tax return may need to be filed with the IRS (this should be filed within nine [9] months from the date of your death).
  2. Open a new checking account (or convert an existing account) in the trust name.  This account will be used to pay all of your debts and on-going trust expenses.  In this connection, obtain from the IRS a new income tax reporting number (EIN) for the trust which the bank will require now that your trust will have become irrevocable upon your death.
  3. Transfer title to all financial/brokerage accounts from your name into the successor trustee’s name, or close all or some of such accounts and transfer the proceeds into the new account in the trust referred to in Paragraph 6. above.
  4. Locate all outstanding bills and pay same from the account referred to in Paragraph 6. above.
  5. Make claim for any death benefit(s) payable on your death.
  6. As to any personal property in your estate, have an appraisal of such property made by an estate personal property appraiser, and sell such property and deposit the sale proceeds into the bank account in your trust, or divide such property among the entitled beneficiaries based on value or as otherwise required by the terms of your trust.
  7. Obtain the date of death value for all other assets in your estate.  Your bank and brokerage firms can provide the trustee with a statement(s) covering the time of your death and/or a letter providing the date of death value(s) of such account(s).  The trustee will probably need to hire a qualified real estate appraiser to value your real property(ies) (such valuations will be needed for income tax basis purposes).

Accountability and Distributions

Successful trust administration involves distributing your estate according to the terms of your trust, but it also involves accountability on the part of the trustee.

  1. The trustee should keep a good record of all trust income and expenses and trust distributions, since an accounting should typically be provided to each beneficiary at the end of the trust administration.
  2. The trustee should pay to himself or herself the compensation he or she is entitled to receive under the terms of the trust; and if none is provided for, “reasonable compensation” as authorized by California law.
  3. After all estate expenses and debts have been paid, make the distributions to your beneficiaries called for by the trust.
  4. Have an accountant prepare and file the needed income tax returns for you and for the trust.

At McEntyre & von der Lieth, PC, our expertise is ready to assist you with all the steps involved in the administration of trusts.

The above statements are generalizations only and are not to be taken as legal advice for the reader’s particular situation.