The period of time directly after a loved one's death is stressful. If the deceased named you in charge of their trust in the state of California, an additional responsibility you have is controlling the trajectory of the trust.
You are free to take a reasonable period of time to focus primarily on your loved one's death and the memorial services and rites that follow. Nothing related to trust administration is an emergency, and it is vital that you take the time necessary to grieve. After the initial grieving process, you can start to execute your loved one's final wishes.
When the time comes and you are ready to face the paperwork, follow our handy California Trust Administration Checklist to ensure that you do not miss an important step along the way.
Step 1: Locate the trust
It is likely that if your loved one made you an executor or a trustee, you are aware of this. However, you must locate the necessary documents to begin the legal process of administrating the trust. Depending on your loved one's situation and the extent of their estate, you may need to locate a variety of paperwork.
The paperwork necessary may include: current wills; past wills; pour-over wills; deeds to trust property; estate tax returns; investment and retirement accounts and life insurance policies.
If your loved one's documentation is not carefully organized, you may benefit from professional assistance to ensure that you have not missed anything important.
Step 2: Give notice to all relevant entities
There will be many legal and financial entities that need to know that your loved one has died and that you are ready to administer their estate. Within 30 days of your loved one dying, you must file a copy of their estate plan along with the death certificate with the California probate court.
Within 60 days of your loved ones death, you must notify all of the heirs, beneficiaries, and other entities that the estate plan includes. In the event that your loved one owned property, you must notify the county assessor's office with a Notice of Death of Real Property Owner.
The above are critical initial steps, but the following are also necessary:
- Within 90 days of death: File Medi-Cal Notice to the Department of Health Services
- Within 150 days of death: File Change of Ownership Forms
- Within 9 months of death: File Form 706 Estate Tax Returns
Step 3: Understand what the trust administrator does
It is possible to administer a trust independently, but this could lead to legal liabilities. It may be beneficial to enlist professional representation to avoid any unnecessary issues. At AmeriEstate during the trust administration process we ease the complex financial and emotional issues of trust administration by:
- Educating on the responsibilities of the role of the trustee.
- Advising on common steps in settling and distributing the estate.
- Coaching on how to proceed with gaining control over Trust assets.
Step 4: Manage and distribute the assets
Keep track of all expenses you incur as a result of administering the estate down to the penny, as well as all the time you spend on the process. Keep any notes, communication or correspondence you engage in. Obtain a EIN from the IRS, and ensure that the inventory of all trust assets at the time of your loved one's death is accurate.
Contact us today at AmeriEstate to learn more about how to properly administer a trust under California law.