Checklist for Trust Administration – Part 1
INVENTORY DECEDENT’S DOCUMENTS AND ASSETS by Julie Garber & Steve Beede
Most people have little experience dealing with what happens after their loved one dies and they have been designated as the Successor Trustee who will be in charge of settling their loved one’s Revocable Living Trust. The purpose of this guide is to provide a general overview of the six steps required to settle a Revocable Living Trust after the Trustmaker dies.
The first step in settling a Revocable Living Trust is to locate all of the decedent’s original estate planning documents and other important papers. Often these will be assembled in a single binder containing all Estate Plan documents including the Revocable Trust, amendments, Pour-Over Will, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Directives, and other related documents. In addition, the decedent may have left written funeral, cremation, burial or memorial instructions and a personal property memorandum. All original documents should be stored in a safe place until they can be given to the trust and estate attorney.
Beyond these “Planning” documents, you will want to locate any documents identifying and both assets owned by the Trust as well as assets still in the decedent’s personal name. These documents will include information about the decedent’s assets such as bank and brokerage statements, stock and bond certificates, life insurance policies, corporate records, car and boat titles, and deeds for real estate; and information about the decedent’s debts, including utility bills, credit card bills, mortgages, personal loans, medical bills and the funeral bill.
Once all of the important documents have been located, read the Revocable Living Trust to determine its specific provisions. When reviewing the Trust, make notes about the following:
( ) 1. Who is named as Successor Trustee? Are co-Trustees designated?
( ) 2. Are there additional Trusts to be set-up? Are the Trustees the same?
( ) 3. Has the Trust been amended? How many times?
( ) 4. Who are the designated Beneficiaries? Are decedent’s children (if any) named?
( ) 5. Is there a List of Assets that were put into the Trust?
( ) 6. Are there instructions on who gets the decedent’s personal effects?
( ) 7. Are there special instructions regarding the decedent’s funeral, cremation or burial?
In addition to reading the Revocable Living Trust and summarizing its terms, review the decedent’s financial documents and make a list of what the decedent owned and owed, how each asset is titled, and, for assets and debts that have a statement, the value of the asset or debt as listed on the statement and the date of the statement. In addition, the decedent’s prior three years of income tax returns should be located and set aside.
Once the decedent’s important documents have been sorted through, the next is to meet with an estate and trust lawyer to determine if any Probate will be required and if the attorney’s assistance will be needed to settle the trust. One of the key reasons that most people get Trusts is to avoid
Probate yet sometimes a limited Probate process is required. Other times disputes concerning the Trust language or who gets what assets will require Probate court guidance.
But for now, your 1st Step is to inventory the documents, the assets and liabilities, and look for the decedent’s instructions.
Next, in Part 2, we’ll cover whether to meet with an Estate and Trust Attorney to determine if their services will be required or whether you can do this on your own.
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The information presented in this Article is not to be taken as legal advice. Every person’s situation is different. If you are facing a legal issue of any kind, get competent legal advice in your State immediately so that you can determine your best options.