Being the trustee of a trust is a role that comes with honor and significant responsibility. Someone holds you in high regard, trusting you with the execution of their wishes even after they’re gone.
Given the gravity of this responsibility, it’s essential to understand the unique responsibilities of this role as well as the steps of California trust administration. We want to help you through this process so you’re set up for success.
Gather All Documents and Information
California law mandates a 40-day waiting period following the decedent’s death before any actions pertaining to the trust can be taken. You should take advantage of this time by gathering all the necessary documents and information. You aren’t able to administer any assets or income, but you are able to get the process started.
Items to gather include:
- Inventory of all assets
- Titles of all titled assets
- Retirement accounts
- Investment accounts
- Tax documents
- Up-to-date valuation of assets at the time of death
Certain trusts will have other elements that need to be accounted for during this period, so it’s important to understand the contents of this specific trust before proceeding.
Providing Notice to Relevant Parties
Once the waiting period concludes and you’re in a position to administer the trust, you are required to inform all the relevant parties. This includes heirs, beneficiaries, and others associated with the trust.
It’s important to note that even those legal heirs who aren’t explicitly named in the trust are entitled to a notification. The specifics of these notices are outlined in California Probate Code Section 16061.7.
If the trust is unfunded or you are also the executor of the decedent’s will, you are required to provide a notice with the probate court.
Pay the Taxes of the Trust
Before you are able to administer assets and wealth from the trust, you need to ensure the necessary taxes are paid and accounted for. This includes the filing of the decedent’s personal income taxes for the portion of the year they survived as well as the taxes owed by the trust itself.
You do not have to notify creditors (though it can be smart to do so in some cases) at the time you are administering a trust.
Administer the Assets and Income of the Trust
Once you’re done with all the necessary preparation, notifications, and taxes, you are able to move forward with administering the trust as planned. However, it’s not as simple as just handing out assets. Most trusts will specify a date or time when an asset will be administered. For instance, minor children are not able to acquire assets in their name, so those assets will remain in the trust until they are adults or a later date determined by the decadent.
Given the intricacies involved, trustees generally consult with experienced California trust administration attorneys. It’s important to make informed decisions by seeking legal counsel. Contact Solan, Park & Robello to get the trust administration process right.