Trust & Estate Administration
What Is Trust Administration?
Trust administration is the process of managing and distributing trust assets after the death of the Grantor (the creator of the trust, also known as a Trustor or Settlor). Upon the death of the Grantor, the appointed successor trustee of the Grantor’s trust has the responsibility to manage the trust and to distribute the trust assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust.
How long does it take to administer a trust?
It depends. The terms of the trust generally dictate the length of the trust administration process. If the trust is relatively straightforward, provides for outright distributions to beneficiaries, and there are no conflicts among the beneficiaries, then the process usually takes about half a year to complete.
However, if there are minor children involved that require support from the trust, if there are any conflicts between beneficiaries, if the trustee discovers assets that were not properly titled in the name of the trust, etc., the trust administration process will continue until the trust is fully distributed and terminated.
What are my duties and responsibilities as a successor trustee?
A successor trustee may, but is not required to, take control of the trust and its assets upon the incapacity or death of the Grantor. Once a successor trustee accepts the role of trustee, the trustee assumes a fiduciary duty owed to the present and current beneficiaries of the trust and becomes responsible for the management and administration of the trust and its assets. The trustee must act in the best interest of the beneficiaries and can be held personally liable for any breach of their fiduciary duty.
Some of the trustee’s specific duties include:
- Notifying trust beneficiaries
- Obtaining death certificates
- Notifying government agencies and credit companies
- Paying debts and creditor claims
- Inventorying trust assets
- Appraising trust assets
- Reviewing and managing trust investments
- Keeping records
- Filing tax returns on behalf of the trust
- Paying any estate tax owed
- Making distributions to beneficiaries
- Proving accountings to beneficiaries
What happens if some assets were not properly added to the trust by the Grantor?
Some assets should never be added to the trust and simply pass down to beneficiaries according to the beneficiary designation instructions provided by the Grantor prior to death.
However, every now and then, a Grantor omits to title an asset in the name of their existing trust, that should have been added to the trust, or omits to complete a beneficiary designation. Upon the Grantor’s death, the omitted asset must be added to the trust before it may be distributed out to the trust beneficiaries.
Generally, transferring such an asset to the trust requires going through the long, time consuming, public, costly, and bureaucratic judicial processes known as probate. Our goal is to help the trustee avoid probate and transfer assets to the trust in the fastest and least expensive way possible. In many cases, we may be able to transfer assets to the trust through an expedited process known as a Heggstad Petition or a California Probate Code 850 Petition.
A Heggstad Petition is a petition filed with the court requesting a court judgment confirming that the assets in question are part of the trust. This petition must be supported by proof of the Grantors intent to include the assets in the trust. We can evaluate your specific situation and determine if a Heggstad Petition would be beneficial in your case.
What trust & estate administration services do you offer?
We understand that the death of a loved one can be a difficult time and the process of administering a trust as a trustee can be confusing. We work closely with our trustee clients to help them efficiently administer the trust in a way that is compliant with California law and will help protect them from liability.
There are many things a trustee must do to successfully administer a trust and we are happy to help the trustee every step of the way. We tailor the level of our involvement to the needs and desires of the trustee. We understand that some trustees are comfortable handling most tasks on their own and would prefer general guidance, supervision, and to receive legal intervention whenever necessary. However, we are also capable and willing to provide a very comprehensive trust administration approach when desired or necessary. We also work as a team with your existing tax professionals, realtors, and other professionals to effectively administer the trust. If you need referrals for professionals to assist you in the process, we can provide you with referrals to highly competent professionals.
Some of the services we provided include, but are not limited to assisting the trustee with:
- Trustee powers, responsibilities, and duties
- Notifying and communicating with beneficiaries
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries
- Working jointly with CPAs, real estate agents, and other professionals
- Accountings and recordkeeping
- Resignation of a trustee
- Modifying, revoking, and terminating trusts
- Appraising and valuing real property and assets
- Trustee compensation
- Creditor’s rights against the trust or beneficiaries
- Selling trust assets, when necessary
- Transferring assets to the trust (Heggstad Petitions/ California Probate Code 850 Petitions)
Speak To Us Today
Call us for a FREE consultation
We are ready to assist you any time. Please call 650-389-9133 or email us to set up an appointment with one of our trust administration lawyers. We respond promptly and will call back as soon as possible if we miss your call. We work throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area, including San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Francisco, and Alameda counties. Our trust and estate administration consultations are remote, so you can enjoy a virtual consultation from the comfort of your own home without having to come into our office.
We speak Cantonese, Mandarin, Spanish, and Polish.