When the trust creator dies, the successor trustee must handle the trust administration. As the trust successor, you’ll have specific tasks to perform. And you may be wondering: do you need a trust administration attorney for this process?
My answer: Yes. There are many reasons you shouldn’t be too eager to drop $50 on DIY trust software or follow the instructions of some guy on the Internet.
Depending on the trust, your job as a successor trustee administrating the trust can get complex fast. Common mistakes can cause significant relationship woes and added costs for those intended to benefit from the trust. That’s on top of the added stress of just having lost a loved one.
What Is Trust Administration?
Trust administration is the process that takes place after the creator of the trust dies, and the successor trustee takes over managing the trust. This isn’t an automatic process, but it can be smooth if you know how to navigate it.
If I helped the grantor (probably your mom, dad, or another relative) set up this trust, my commitment to them was to help you through this process when the time came.
And if I didn’t set it up because they went the DIY route, I’m still committed to helping you work through the trust administration with the least stress possible.
What’s Involved in Trust Administration?
The Tax Administration Process generally includes these 8 steps:
- Following California Probate law and other applicable mandates
- Filling out appropriate forms
- Getting the Tax ID set up for the trust
- Sorting through the assets held in the trust to account for all of them
- Pay off any creditors (I can help you understand which ones you owe)
- Remove the grantor’s name from the title on assets and replace it with your name as the successor.
- File final income taxes
- Transfer trust assets to beneficiaries
What Does a Trust Administration Attorney Do?
A trust administration attorney or trust administration lawyer is an attorney specializing in estate planning and trust administration. This individual does not administer the trust themselves. The trustee, who may be you, does that.
Instead, I provide you, the trust administrator, with expert guidance and administrative support throughout the trust administration process. It’s never easy to lose a loved one, even if you and the trust grantor knew this would happen one day.
I became an estate planning attorney specifically to help families and individuals during this time.
Why Work with a Trust Administration Attorney?
This is a choice — no pressure. My goal is to help you make the right decision for you and your family. So why would you need an attorney right now?
1. Taking Time to Grieve
Everyone handles the death of a loved one differently. You may feel broken and lost, or you may be the “strong” one who needs to be there for other family members right now.
The last thing you want to be worrying about is trust administration. This process is complex, but it doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful.
I can guide a smoother process.
2. Understanding Trust Terms
Your trust attorney doesn’t just “do it for you”. A good one makes sure you understand everything and feel comfortable with the administration process. My team will deal with complicated legal documents. But I’ll break it all down, so you know what you’re signing.
3. Figuring Out the Taxes Owed
A trust can help you avoid probate, but it doesn’t eliminate all taxes owed, which may include:
- Estate taxes
- Capital gains taxes
- California property taxes
- Generation-skipping transfer taxes
- Income taxes
4. Meeting Deadlines
A grieving person may not always be in the state of mind to keep up with looming deadlines. We can manage that for you and keep the whole process on track.
5. Locating Creditors and Figuring Out Who to Pay
Missteps with debts could impact your personal finances. You could distribute assets only to find out later that the trust owed creditors money. Now, you’re on the hook for it, and the state of California could sue you.
Your trust administration attorney makes sure we know what the trust owes and settles all debts and taxes.
6. Meeting Your Responsibilities
These will depend on the type of trust. With a basic trust, you may just need to distribute assets to beneficiaries as outlined in the trust. This may be a one-time distribution with or without certain requirements met.
You may need to sell trust assets to split the proceeds between beneficiaries. In some cases, you may even have to manage investments in the trust.
If minors are involved, you may continue to manage assets in the trust until you can distribute them at a certain age.
I can walk you through what to do.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider scheduling an initial call with my staff at no cost to see how we can help.
7. Getting Ongoing Support
Some trusts will last decades because they’re intended to care for someone long-term.
For example, this could be a special needs trust in which you become responsible for managing assets to care for your special needs sibling, nephew, or other relatives. That’s a big responsibility to take on that borders on frightening, but as a special needs trust attorney, I can also help you understand how to navigate that role.
How to Find a Trust Administration Attorney
I’m Ellen, a trust administration attorney specializing in complex estate planning. You’re in the right place.
Remember, the trust pays for my services, and my fees are fair. You don’t have to do this alone. Reach out to my staff to learn more about how my team can support you during this difficult time.