There’s a lot to process when a loved one dies. Of principal importance is your personal grief and it is crucial that you gift yourself the time to attend to this need. Give yourself a moment (or two or three) to absorb the initial impact of this tremendous blow. Yes, you and your family are facing a long to-do list. Maybe you have been appointed trustee of your loved one’s trust; maybe you are the executor of their estate; maybe you’re worried about who will collect mail or mow the lawn. All of this is vital and yet more vital still is caring for yourself and those around you.
When you have mustered the resources and rallied as a family, you can begin to delegate the numerous tasks at hand. There’s no space in the present article to address all of them (for that, check out our What to do After a Loved One Dies guide) and so here we’ll focus on just one that can feel especially daunting: being appointed trustee.
Ten Things to Do When Appointed Trustee
- Read the trust document in consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney. This, along with relevant law, is your road map and so you need to be sure you understand all of the directions.
- Meet with the deceased’s bank and set up a checking account for the trust from which you can make distributions and track expenses.
- Understand your “fiduciary duty.” These legally-binding responsibilities obligates you to take certain actions, including notifying beneficiaries of their rights within 60 days of assuming the trusteeship, and act with the beneficiaries’ best interest in mind. If you have doubts about what this means, speak to an experienced estate planning attorney.
- Maintain an annual account of trust activity and share this with beneficiaries.
- Speak with a financial professional about prudent ways to invest funds held by the trust.
- Seek to understand and be mindful of beneficiaries’ needs. Be careful, for instance, to protect beneficiaries’ public benefits eligibility (should they depend on these) when planning distributions.
- File a tax return on behalf of the trust.
- If you are entitled to compensation, keep complete and accurate records of the time you spend on tasks carrying out your duties and administering the trust.
- Be aware of the deceased’s Will and consult with the executor of their estate as necessary. Here, too, it helps to seek guidance from an experienced estate planning attorney.
- Claim your expenses (always keep all receipts and records!) but do not engage in any personal financial dealings with the trust.
A bonus tip that belongs on this list concerns the importance of maintaining an open line of communication with the successor trustee. This is a person appointed to take over your duties should you pass away or retire and so it is important that they have access to current knowledge concerning the trust’s administration.
To learn more about how to navigate being appointed trustee or to address any other responsibilities implied by administering a loved one’s estate, do not hesitate to reach out to Empowered Legacy Planning either by calling us at (480) 855-8383 or using the contact form below.