Following the death of a family member or loved one, we routinely provide assistance for trust administration. Trust administration is the process that takes place between the time of a person’s death and when his or her trust assets are to be distributed to his or her beneficiaries. We work closely with Trustees (individual and institutional) to ensure that the terms of the trust are properly carried out while making the process as understandable and stress-free as possible. We also represent Beneficiaries to make sure their rights and inheritances are protected. A trustee has a fiduciary duty (meaning he or she must exercise the highest standard of care) to carry out all of his or her responsibilities enumerated in the trust itself, in addition to all of the fiduciary duties that must be fulfilled under California law. Some of these duties include providing notice to beneficiaries, gathering the decedent’s assets, obtaining appraisals, notifying potential creditors, filing tax returns, providing trust accountings, distributing assets to beneficiaries, along with other responsibilities. Proper legal guidance is imperative as failure to properly administer a trust can result in unnecessary taxes, very large attorney fees, and lawsuits by beneficiaries. Further, improper administration of a trust can expose a trustee to personal liability and financial hardship.
Among the trustee’s responsibilities are:
Collecting, managing, and investing all of the trust assets as well as accumulating and distributing income and principal to the listed beneficiaries.
Keeping the trust’s assets separate from the assets of any other trust as well as any person’s assets. It is important not to commingle the trust’s assets with other assets.
Dealing impartially with the trust’s assets, which includes not using trust assets for the benefit of the trustee, nor taking any action that will result in a conflict of interest between the trustee and the trust or one of the beneficiaries.
Preserving the trust’s assets. If real estate is a trust asset, this would include properly managing the real estate. For stocks and bonds, the trustee should hire someone to properly manage the accounts, which would include following California’s prudent investor rules for investments.
Keeping adequate records of the trust’s activities, including proper bookkeeping and accounting. This is necessary for the filing of the trust’s income tax returns and properly preparing trust accountings.
Filing income tax and estate tax returns for the trust. As well as staying current on all applicable tax laws for trusts.