Trust Administration Process
The best outcome for the distribution of assets is if the person who died had a trust, and all the assets were in the trust at the time of death. When a person dies leaving a valid trust in place, the transferring of assets can usually be done without involving the courts. This process is called trust administration. During this process, certain things need to be sent to individuals and filed with the appropriate agencies (see Timeline Of Actions After A Loved One Passes Away and Who To Notify below). The person who is in charge of doing this is called the trustee. The trustee is nominated by the trust that the decedent created. The trustee is also responsible for managing and accounting for all the assets until they are distributed. It is necessary to do this process properly and lawfully, to carry out the wishes established in the trust, and to avoid lawsuits. The trustee may be able to compensate themselves for their time, and is almost always authorized to use trust funds to hire professionals, such as attorneys, to assist in the process. Finally, as long as the trust administration is done properly, the trustee will not be personally liable for any debts left by the decedent. Our office can assist you in this process to avoid litigation and to ensure the assets are properly transferred to the chosen beneficiaries.
Petition To Assign Assets To Trust
Often, a loved one dies with a valid trust, but not all the assets are in the trust. When this happens, the banks and institutions will ask the family to open a probate to transfer the assets; however, this is completely unnecessary, and a giant waste of time and money. Typically, a motion can be filed with the court to show that the assets should be assigned to the trust, rather than going through a probate. This is a difficult motion to prepare and argue, but it is usually granted. If the motion is denied, then you are stuck with going through probate, so make sure to hire someone who has done this before. Contact us for a free consultation if you would like to know more.
Timeline Of Actions After A Loved One Passes Away
After a loved one passes away, it can be overwhelming to begin on all the matters that need to be attended to. The staff at Bauer & Shekerlian Law is available to provide trusted legal counsel and guidance regarding things that must be addressed after a loved one dies. Below is a general list of what needs to be done when. Not all of these will apply to each case, but make sure to address the ones that apply to your situation. Here is a timeline of actions that may need to be taken:
Within 24 hours:
- Determine whether any of your loved one’s property needs to be safeguarded, such as a motor vehicle, vacant house, etc.
- Ensure that proper funeral arrangements have been made.
Within two weeks:
- Locate your loved one’s letter(s) of instruction, if any.
- Locate the original will, trust and other estate planning documents and read them.
- Locate important records such as titles, deeds, and life insurance policies.
- Make an appointment with an attorney to discuss estate.
- Notify life insurance company of the death and request claim forms.
- If mortgage insurance on home exists, notify the insurance company of death.
- Determine if any bills must be paid immediately.
- Contact creditors who are demanding immediate payment and notify creditors of death.
- Notify credit card companies of the death.
- Cancel credit cards on which your loved one was the only signatory.
- Obtain the bill for last illness from the hospital (if any).
- Order at least five death certificates from the funeral home.
- Contact the post office to make any necessary changes in the delivery of mail.
Within one month:
- Notify Social Security of the death and any other organization paying on retirement or paying an annuity upon death.
- Gather and organize financial documents:
- Bank accounts owned by your loved one
- Mutual funds owned by your loved one
- Brokerage accounts owned by your loved one
- Certificates of deposit in your loved one’s name
- Stock certificates registered in your loved one’s name
- Any promissory notes under which your loved one was entitled to receive payment
- Titles to motor vehicles and/or mobile homes that are listed in your loved one’s name
- Deeds to real property owned by your loved one
- Any appraisals of jewelry or other valuable personal property owned by your loved one
- Gain access to and inventory any safe deposit box.
- Obtain the account balance on mortgages, loans, checking and savings accounts as of the date of death.
- Bring original will and trust with other legal and financial documents, balances, death certificates and inventory of safe deposit box to appointment with attorney.
- Notify a CPA, accountant, or bookkeeper of the death.
Within 6 months:
- If automobiles are held in joint tenancy, change motor vehicle titles to reflect single ownership by the surviving joint tenant.
- If stocks or bonds are held in joint tenancy, contact a stockbroker to change records to reflect ownership only by the surviving joint tenant.
Within 9 months:
- File or extend estate tax return (IRS Form 706) if determined necessary or advisable after consultation with an attorney and/or CPA.
- File paperwork with the IRS regarding IRA distribution and rollover elections BEFORE September 30 of the year following the death of the owner of the account.
Who To Notify
There are many scams that seek to snare the unwary. Identity theft is an ever-growing concern. The risk of identity theft does not end at death. In fact, stealing the identity of the recently deceased is one of the most common forms of identity theft. Imagine a surviving spouse’s dismay when she goes to the bank to find out that her dead husband cleared out the bank account – a week after he died. You can minimize the risk of a recently passed loved one from falling prey to an identity thief by alerting those agencies on this list from the National Funeral Directors Association:
- Social Security Administration
- Veteran’s Administration (if the decedent formerly served in the military)
- Defense Finance and Accounting Service (military service retiree receiving benefits)
- Office of Personnel Management (if the decedent is a former federal civil service employee)
- U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service (If the decedent was not a U.S. citizen)
- State Department of Motor Vehicles (If the decedent had a driver’s license)
- Credit card and merchant card companies
- Banks, savings and loan associations, and credit unions
- Mortgage companies and lenders
- Financial planners and stockbrokers
- Pension providers
- Life insurers and annuity companies
- Health, medical and dental insurers
- Disability insurers
- Automotive insurer
- Mutual benefit companies
- All three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion
- All memberships (e.g., health clubs, professional associations, clubs, library, etc.)
Committed To Serving You
At every step of the way, the compassionate legal professionals at Bauer & Shekerlian Law can ensure that your loved one’s estate and final matters are properly taken care of. Give our Tustin law office a call at 866-202-5154 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.