Administering Your Trust Upon Your Death

You may wonder what is involved when your successor trustee administers your revocable living trust following your death. Here are the primary actions (not necessarily sequential) your successor trustee will need to take:

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.

4. Obtain preliminary value of your estate to determine whether a federal estate tax return may need to be filed with the IRS (within nine (9) months from the date of your death).

5. Open a new checking account in the trust name (or convert an existing account). 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, since your trust became irrevocable upon your death.

6. Transfer title to all financial/brokerage accounts from your name into the successor trustee’s name, or close (sell the assets in) all or some of such accounts and transfer the proceeds into the new account in the trust referred to in Para. 5 above.

7. Locate all outstanding bills and pay same from the account referred to in Para 5. above.

8. Make claim for any death benefit(s) payable on your death.

9. 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 trust bank account, or divide such property among the entitled beneficiaries based on value or as otherwise required by the terms of your trust.

10. Obtain date of death values of all other property in your estate. Your banks 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) (needed for income tax basis purposes).

11. 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.

12. The trustee should pay to himself or herself the compensation he or she is entitled to under the terms of the trust; and if none is provided for, “reasonable compensation” as authorized by California law.

13. After all estate expenses and debts have been paid, make the distributions to your beneficiaries called for by the trust.

14. Have an accountant prepare and file the needed income tax returns for you and for the trust.

Richard F. McEntyre is a lawyer practicing law in the areas of estate planning and administration, having served the San Diego community as a lawyer for over 40 years. House calls available. Dick’s office is located at 3156 Sports Arena Boulevard, Suite 102 (Telephone (619) 221-0279),

Ultimate Estate Planning

Of course, we should take care of our earthly estate planning (have trusts, wills, etc. prepared) sooner than later, for we never know when “it’s time to go.” We can only speculate when our death will occur. This raises the issue of what could be called “ultimate estate planning.” Are we—can we be—prepared for what happens after we die?

George G. Ritchie, Jr., M.D., a Christian, in his book Ordered to Return, relates his “out-of-body” death experiences in which he encounters the heavenly Jesus in 1943 as a 20-year-old army enlisted man. On page 37, the now Dr. Ritchie writes:

“I am too young to die,” I thought.

[Jesus responded]: “No one is too young to die, for physical death is only of the body and a temporary doorway to another realm through which you have just passed.”

When we die, will we be ready for the next realm? What realm will that be? Are there different realms for different people? Can we plan for the realm we would like to enter? Have we done our ultimate estate planning?