For a lot of people, a revocable living trust will be the ideal estate plan centerpiece. There are many benefits to be gained through the utilization of a living trust instead of a last will. One of them is the avoidance of probate, which is a costly and time consuming legal process.
You do not lose personal control of assets that you convey into a living trust, and you can change the terms at any time. It is possible to include spendthrift protections, and you can account for potential incapacity when you establish a living trust.
The individual or entity that acts as the trust administrator is called a trustee. While you are alive, you can be the trustee of your own living trust. In the trust declaration, you name a successor trustee to assume the role after your passing.
If you choose someone that you know that is not a legal professional, there can be a learning curve. The trustee may not know how to proceed, so in many cases, an attorney will be engaged. This being stated, there is a basic framework that most people can understand on the surface, and this checklist will take you through steps.
To-Do List for a Living Trust Trustee
- Obtain multiple copies of the death certificate.
- Identify the beneficiaries and read the trust agreement to them.
- Inform the Social Security administration about that passing of the decedent.
- If there is a pour-over will, admit it to probate.
- Identify and inventory the assets that are held by the trust.
- Obtain a taxpayer identification number.
- Arrange for asset appraisals.
- Open a checking account on behalf of the trust.
- Pay rightful debts, including taxes.
- Keep accurate records.
In some instances, the trust administration process will be relatively simple, but there are still legal and procedural steps that must be taken to administer the trust properly. Other cases can be much more complicated. For example, a trust may hold assets that are going to be invested so that that beneficiaries can receive distributions over an extended period of time.
When a trust that contains significant resources is going to remain intact over the long haul, an inexperienced trustee may not have the ability to properly administer the vehicle.
There is a certain expense involved, but many people decide to use a professional fiduciary like a bank or a trust company to act as the trustee. Clearly, a financial professional will know how to take care of the administrative requirements, and the funds would be well managed.
Many trusts have multiple beneficiaries, and even though they may be family members, there may not be a perfectly resonant dynamic. If you name someone to act as a trustee that has personal relationships with the beneficiaries, there can be real or perceived conflicts of interest.
This possibility is avoided if you engage a corporate trustee. Another advantage is the fact that the institution will always have qualified people on their staff. On the other hand, there can be longevity concerns if you name a private individual to serve as the trustee of your living trust.
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If you would like to learn more about the value of living trusts and other estate planning topics, we have another valuable resource here on this website. We have prepared in-depth special reports on this subject and others, and they are being offered free of charge right now. To see all the titles, visit this page: Estate Planning Reports.
Contact The Schomer Law Group!
It is never a great idea to try to handle a complicated legal matter on your own without any professional help. If we work with you to plan your estate, your attorney can answer any questions that you may have about the role of the living trust trustee. You can also arrange for us to provide your family with assistance after you are gone.
Our doors are open if you are ready to schedule a consultation. There is a contact form on this website that you can use to request an appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 310-337-7696.