After all the Grantors of a Revocable Living Trust have passed, it falls on the Successor Trustee appointed by the trust itself to settle the estate. If the trust has been properly funded (all assets owned by the Grantors have been placed in the Trust’s name) the Successor Trustee should not have to do any legal procedures to complete the trust settlement. The following is an informational list to provide some guidance to the Successor Trustee:
Review the Trust instructions contained in the Trust document. The Trust document itself will inform you of how the assets of the trust are to be distributed.
The Successor Trustee should fill out a “Successor Trustee Acceptance Notice." This document will put those entities that you deal with on notice that you have taken on the duties of Trustee. If you don’t have one available to you, consult either the Attorney who drafted the original Trust or an Estate Planning Attorney of your choosing. They will be able to assist you.
Within 28 days after the Grantor(s) death or disability, the Successor Trustee should inform ieach beneficiary of the trust in writing of the trust’s existence, of the court in which the trust is registered, if it is registered, of the your name and address, and of the beneficiary's right to request and receive a copy of the trust’s terms that describe their interest and relevant information about the trust property.
The Successor Trustee will want to order enough copies of the death Certificate to notify each insurance policy and each real asset (real estate, stocks, bonds, etc.) in the trust that will have to be sold or transferred. (The death certificate must be a certified copy which you can get at the county Register of Deed’s Office).
Check the Safe Deposit Box(es) and Checking Accounts. Both of these should be in the Trust’s name already, if the trust was properly funded. You will need to be able to access both for the settlement of the trust. If the Safe Deposit Box or the Accounts are not in the trust name, the Successor Trustee may need to open an Estate in Probate to place them in the Trust.
Once you have the assets of the trust under the control of the Trust, pay the creditors of the Trust.
If the Grantor served in the armed forces, the VA will provide monies towards funeral expenses, a headstone marker and an American Flag, if desired. The funeral home will need the Military Separation Papers to show proof that the Grantor was a veteran of the Armed Forces.
Notify life insurance companies, annuity companies, brokerages, etc.
Review the assets of the Trust Estate, including getting appraisals on real estate and items of personal property like antiques, jewelry, artwork, collectors items, etc. This will enable you to calculate any Estate taxes and provides a value to those assets when it comes time to sell, if necessary.
File all income tax returns and an estate tax return, if necessary.
Review any business agreements. The Grantor(s) to the trust may have an ongoing business relationship where there is value owed to the trust or the Grantor’s estate will owe money to the business. You want to make sure these are accounted for in either case.
Review all dunning notices, bills and credit accounts. Bills owed by the Trust Estate may become the personal responsibility of the Successor Trustee if they are not taken care of. This is very important.
Each beneficiary is going to be entitled to an accounting of the financial condition of the Trust Estate, including the value of the assets, any income and expenses or any estate taxes paid. Keeping everything open and transparent also reduces any claims of self dealing on the Successor Trustee’s part.
Administer, partition and distribute the Trust Estate to the Successor Beneficiaries as directed in the Trust Agreement.
This should form the basis of your actions as successor trustee, however, each individual trust and estate will be different. If you run into difficulties, feel free to consult an Estate Planning Attorney to assist you.