Before accepting the role of a trustee, it is important to have a thorough understanding of what you will need to do and for how long. Trustees are often appointed to manage trust assets for a child or adult with special needs. This responsibility could be for a lifetime, so be sure that you are up for the task. Trustee duties are outlined in a recent article, “Trustee responsibilities,” from InsuranceNewsNet.com.
When the person who set up the trust, known as the “grantor,” dies, the trustee is in charge of settling the trust. That includes tasks like:
1–Locating and reviewing all of the documents of the grantor, especially any funeral and burial instructions.
2–If the grantor owned a home or an apartment, changing the locks for security, notifying the homeowner’s insurance company, if the house will be unoccupied for an extended period of time, and checking on auto insurance policies, if there are cars or other vehicles.
3–Unless the executor is taking care of this task, the trustee needs to obtain multiple originals of the death certificate. These are usually ordered by the funeral director.
4–Listing all assets with the Date of Death (DOD) values of any assets. This determines the “cost basis” of assets that are to be transferred to beneficiaries. If assets are later sold and used to distribute proceeds, the cost-basis is used to determine income tax liability.
5–Consolidate multiple financial accounts into one account. The check register will become a register of trust activities and beneficiaries may inspect it. The trustee’s first responsibility is to protect the trust’s funds.
6–Pay outstanding bills and debts. The trustee may be personally liable, if this is not handled correctly.
7–Meet with an estate planning attorney to determine if the trust must file income tax returns or if the estate of the grantor must file income tax returns.
8–File claims for life insurance, IRAs and annuities.
9–Create an accounting for all trust financial activity from the grantor’s DOD to be distributed to the beneficiaries.
10–Transfer assets to beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust and have an estate planning attorney send each beneficiary a receipt, release and waiver for any further responsibility and liability.
The responsibilities of a trustee are similar to the responsibilities of an executor, except that wills are used in probate court and trusts are created to avoid probate court. Another benefit of trusts is that they can help avoid litigation between beneficiaries and keep the estate’s affairs private.
One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like your plan for safe, problem free, and successful transfer of assets to the next generation. Call our office today to schedule a time for us to review your estate plan and identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security. Our office is located in Santa Ana, CA but we serve all of California including Irvine, Orange, Tustin, Newport Beach, and Anaheim.
Reference: InsuranceNewsNet.com (Oct. 19, 2020) “Trustee responsibilities”