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Trust Administration

He is the first attorney I recommend to friends and family seeking help.

Diana K., Esq.

Matthew Talbot surpassed what we expected in both his knowledge of the law and his support through a difficult process.

Jackie E.

Executing a Trust can be one of the most important estate planning decisions any person or family can make. Funding a Trust changes ownership of assets in ways that allow for ease of management and transfer upon the passing of the person(s) involved in the Trust. 

Walnut Creek Trust Administration Law Firm Talbot Law Group has been helping families and trustees carry out their fiduciary duties in a way that ensures everything is taken care of correctly and with minimal stress.

Why Talbot Law Group?

Conscientious, Reliable Advice from a Top California Trust Law Firm

When a trust is established, it must be overseen by an administrator, called the trustee. Generally the initial trustee of a trust and the person who established the trust are one and the same while that. Once the person who established the trust (called the grantor or trustor) passes away or becomes incapacitated, a successor trustee must administer the trust. If the grantor is still alive, the successor trustee must manage the assets in the grantor’s best interest. Once the grantor has died, however, the successor trustee must manage the assets in the best interest of the beneficiaries. 

The duty of the trustee is to manage the real property, funds (cash or investments), insurance, and other assets contained in the trust. The trustee is also responsible for managing the distribution of assets as directed by the trust.

A trustee must act in good faith and follow the terms of the trust, in addition to the California law that governs trust administration. The administration of a well drafted (and well managed) trust can often be a seamless process for he successor trustee. However, when trusts are drafted without careful attention to detail, or the trust assets are not properly accounted for, the administration process becomes increasingly cumbersome for the successor trustee.

Talbot Law Group is known throughout the Bay Area for the expertise in complex trust administrations.  Our attorneys also work closely with trustees, fiduciaries, and other professionals to ensure that the process is as cost effective and efficient as possible.

The Trust Administration Process

When you’re a trustee and a loved one passes away, the last thing on your mind may be administering their trust. Trustees don’t have to get started right away, however. Allow a month or so to recover from your loss before diving into your duties as a trustee. It’s better not to wait too long though – as the trustee, it is your legal responsibility to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. This means adhering closely to the terms of the trust – and the California probate code.

While it is not required that trustees hire an attorney for the administration of their trust in California, it is often the case that a few thousand dollars in attorney’s fees saves trustees a great deal of frustration, time, and money in the administration of a trust. And perhaps even more importantly, a stellar trust attorney ensures that the trustee is legally protected.

When Should you Hire a Trust Attorney?

You won’t necessarily need to choose an attorney before getting started on the trust administration. The first few steps of a trust administration in California are mostly about gathering information. When it comes to making prudent investment decisions on behalf of the beneficiaries, filing trust tax returns, funding sub-trusts, or transferring real property, an attorney can assist you in properly – and legally, administering your trust.

3 Tips for California Successor Trustees

Trustee Tip #1

Understand the Terms of the Trust

Understanding the terms of the trust is perhaps the most important part of acting as Trustee. If you have questions about any aspect of the trust, consult with an experienced Trust attorney. In addition to the actual content of the trust, successor trustees need to know the relevant California laws regarding trustee administration and the duties of a trustee. 

Trustee Tip #2

Invest Wisely

One of the duties of a Trustee in California is to invest trust funds responsibly. California has what is called a Prudent Investor Rule, which requires trustees to act in a reasonable and responsible manner in regards to investments. It therefore follows that trustees should neither let funds or assets sit idle without earning interest, nor should trustees make investments that put trust assets at risk. 

Trustee Tip #3

Communicate with Beneficiaries

Frequent and open communication between trustees and beneficiaries can prevent potential litigation due to misunderstandings. Let beneficiaries know what steps you’ve taken and an approximate timeline for distribution. Communication will help beneficiaries to feel secure and confident that they will receive their inheritance in a timely manner.

How Trustees Can Avoid Trust Litigation

If a trust incurs losses due to mistakes or omissions, the trustee can be held personally liable. California Probate code (the law which governs trusts) spells out in detail the steps that must be taken by a trustee. Ensuring that all their responsibilities are upheld puts trustees in the best position to avoid potential lawsuits by beneficiaries. When it comes to having an attorney do your estate plan or administer your trust, remember – it’s always less expensive to prevent future problems than fix past mistakes.

Overview of Trustee Duties in California

Obtaining certified copies of the death certificate:

at least 10 certified copies are recommended

Thoroughly reading and reviewing Trust Documents:

Understand all estate planning documents and wishes of the trust’s settlors, including their will, distribution plan, and other wishes outlined by the terms of the trust.

Contacting the probate court in your county:

Trustees are required by California law to notice all beneficiaries and decedent’s heirs. Contra Costa County and Alameda County each require specific forms to do so.

Locating or “Marshalling” trust assets:

Obtain deeds of all real property and ensure it is titled in the name of the trust. A complete list of trust assets is often found in Schedule A of the trust document.

Locating ALL assets of the decedent, even those outside the trust:

Assets not held by the trust or Payable on Death may be subject to probate.

Obtaining a tax ID number for the trust:

When a Trust becomes irrevocable, the trust will need a tax ID number

Provide fiduciary accounting of trust assets to beneficiaries:

 Income and Principle beneficiaries have the legal right to an accounting, unless otherwise specified by the Trust.

Paying taxes for the decedent and filing fiduciary returns for trust if necessary:

Check with an experienced tax attorney or CPA to ensure all taxes are up to date

Distributing funds and assets to beneficiaries:

Once the trust administration is complete, all assets must be distributed pursuant to the terms of the trust.

For more details on Trust Administration, check out our article 10 Steps to Administering a Trust in California

Exploring our Trust Administration Services? Take a moment to complete our Trust Administration Questionnaire before scheduling an appointment. Reach out to us by using the contact information below.

Contact us today at 925-322-1795 to set up a consultation.

Estate Planning and Probate Firm Talbot Law Group assists clients with their estate plans across California, including Contra Costa County, Alameda County, San Francisco County, Napa County, Marin County, Sonoma County, Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, and Los Angeles County.

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