Before you can start administering the Trust, be sure to have sufficient certified copies of the death certificate. These are first ordered from the Coroner's office. Otherwise, the county recorder will provide these for a fee. It is recomended that you obtain at least 10 certified copies.
Locate and Read the Trust, Will and Other Estate Plan Documents
Typically, the Trust and other Estate Plan documents are contained in a binder or notebook. Carefully review the important terms of the Trust, including the name(s) of the Trustee(s), the distribution plan and any other stated wishes of the Trustors/Settlors.
Marshal Trust Assets
Look to the Schedule of Assets (Schedule "A") first. The listed items should be described well enough to identify and locate the assets. If the assets consist of real property, then locate the deeds. The deeds should list the Trust as the titleholder. If not, then a probate or similar proceeding may need to be commenced. Then locate the title to any other property, such as vehicles or boats, and any stock certificates.
Contact a Trust Attorney
A qualified and experienced Trust attorney should be consulted immediately. If there are issues of income or estate taxation, then the Trust attorney should be able to assist you in resolving those issues. Then the attorney should give you a complete list, timeline or explanation of the trust administration process.
You are not required to hire an attorney, but it is advisable to consult with an attorney before you begin selling and/or distributing assets.
The Trustee is required to send a Notification to all Beneficiaries (primary and contingent) of the existence of the Trust, the name and address of the Trustee, the location of the trust administration, and a warning that all contests must be brought against the Trust within a certain time period.
Once the notice is given, the Trustee may begin the real Trust Administration process, which may include liquidating assets and distributing shares of the Trust to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the Trust.
Additional resources provided by the author
Consider contacting a Trusts and Estates Attorney immediately.
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