If you are the Successor Trustee responsible for administering a living trust after the death of the grantor or settlor, there are many steps you need to take to administer and settle the living trust. In most cases, successor trustees are surviving family members with no prior experience in trust administration. Hiring an attorney can be expensive, so any steps the successor trustee can complete without legal assistance will save money and preserve assets for trust beneficiaries.
Pennyborn.com's Successor Trustee Checklist is a free estate planning form designed to help a Successor Trustee complete trustee duties when the deceased had a
living trust. This form provides an organized, step by step method of completing and recording the tasks of living trust administration. The Successor Trustee Checklist Form is shown below. Print one copy for your personal use.
After you have successfully completed all the steps involved in administering the trust, you may reach a point when it is time to end the trust, also known as closing the trust. Provided other steps in the trust administration process have been completed properly, closing the trust is usually a very easy process.If you are not sure what steps you need to take to formally complete this process, review our article on
How to End a Trust. This is also a good time to confer with your attorney to make sure you have completed all the necessary tasks to properly administer the trust. Otherwise, you may have to deal with unresolved issues in the future that could create unexpected costs.
Forms and Letters for Trustees
As you go through the Successor Trustee Checklist, you will probably have questions about how to complete each step in the process. Pennyborn.com features articles on many different aspects of trust administration. For more information on how to administer a trust, review our free trust administration guide. If you need forms or letters for trust administration, one of the best resources for new trustees is a trust administration guide, such as the trustee guides listed on our
books for trustees page. A good trust administration manual may help you save time and money when administering a small trust.Please note: We do not provide legal assistance. If you require advice on probate, estate administration or settling a living trust, consult a lawyer licensed in the state where the deceased was domiciled.
Living Trust Accounting
As the successor trustee of a living trust, one of your most important duties may be to provide an accounting to beneficiaries. In order to provide an accurate trust accounting, you will need to keep detailed financial records about all expenditures made by the trust. In addition, your accounting will need to provide information on income and gains by the trust, such as income from investments, real estate, bank accounts, etc. You may also need to prepare tax forms such as a Schedule K-1 Form.
To ensure you fulfill your duties as trustee, you should not attempt to prepare a living trust accounting on your own. For this particular step in the trust administration process, you should rely on a CPA or an estate planning lawyer. Failure to provide an accurate accounting could lead the beneficiaries to conclude you are not properly managing trust assets. To learn more about what a living trust accounting is and how to prepare one, go to
living trust accounting.
Dealing With Heirs
As the successor trustee of a living trust, you may be the primary point of contact for matters relating to the estate of the grantor. If so, you will probably be contacted by heirs of the deceased. The heirs may be beneficiaries of the living trust. However, if the grantor did not provide an inheritance for his heirs in the living trust, the heirs may have questions for you about the decedent's estate and the trust. See right to information about trust.Dealing with heirs is one of the most challenging aspects of settling an estate. If this is your first time serving as a trustee, you may not be prepared to handle questions from heirs or from an attorney representing an heir. To ensure you fulfill all your duties as a trustee and honor the terms of the trust, it is important to understand the laws applicable to trusts before sharing information or disclosing the contents of the trust. To find laws for a particular state, go to trust law.When performing your duties as successor trustee, one of your primary objectives should be to avoid any disputes with heirs or beneficiaries that could result in legal action. Handling all aspects of trust administration in the manner required by applicable law is also a best practice when dealing with heirs. For a list of issues to keep in mind when communicating with heirs and other tips for new trustees, read our article on how to
administer a trust.