What to do after living trust owner’s death
When an owner of a living trust has died, California law requires the trustee to take specific legal steps in order for the family and/or other named persons to inherit from the trust and to have the assets transferred into their own names. This process is called “living trust administration.” It is similar to probate, except that it occurs without the involvement of a court and is usually faster and less expensive. It is generally needed even if there is a second owner / trustee of the trust, such as a spouse, who is still living.
If the living trust contains items of substantial value, such as a home, stocks and bonds, or other investments, it is worthwhile to hire an experienced attorney to make sure each of the required legal steps is followed. Otherwise, title to the assets may not pass properly, the trustee and trust beneficiaries may have legal liability to the creditors of the deceased, tax benefits may be lost, and the successor trustee may be liable to trust beneficiaries for failing to properly perform all of the trustee’s legal duties. All of these problems can be avoided by retaining experienced trust administration attorneys.
How our experienced attorneys handle living trust administration
When you hire the experienced attorneys of SAN DIEGO LAW FIRM™ to administer a living trust after the owner has passed away, with the successor trustee’s authorization we will accomplish all required legal steps, including:
- Advising the trustee on each of his or her responsibilities.
- Preparing notices of administration, and advising the trustee as to who must receive these notices. Once authorized by the trustee, we’ll send the notices.
- Obtaining a tax id number for the trust, confirming that all assets are properly titled in the trust, and taking legal steps to have any problematic assets properly titled.
- Inventorying the assets of the deceased owner, and obtaining appraisals or date-of-death values for all assets.
- Preparing and filing any court proceedings needed to protect the trustee and beneficiaries from claims by creditors.
- Seeking court approval of the trustee’s actions if the trust terms are unclear, or there is a dispute.
- Paying the creditors of the deceased.
- If the terms of the trust require it to be divided into separate trusts (typically, an estate trust and a survivor’s living trust), we will determine the best way to allocate the assets to obtain the maximum tax benefits, and will seek the trustee’s consent to our proposed division.
- Preparing accountings for the beneficiaries and a plan for distribution.
- Preparing deeds and other legal documents needed for distribution and transfer of the trust assets into the names of the persons who have inherited those assets.
- Referring you to an experienced estate accountant for preparation of Federal and California estate tax returns for estates valued above the statutory minimum, a final income tax return for the deceased, a trust income tax return at the end of the year, and a summary for the beneficiary tax returns. If the trust is not entirely distributed at that point, the accountant will need to prepare annual fiduciary income tax returns for the trust.
If authorized to do so, we will also file the original will of the deceased with the appropriate California county clerk. If the will passes either no assets or assets whose total value is under $100,000, then no California probate is required. Otherwise, the will must be probated even though there was a living trust. For more information about the probate process, please see our California Probate & Inheritance section in this website.
Cost of living trust administration
The costs of our services for living trust administration are based on how much legal work we will need to do to properly administer the trust. The amount of work generally depends on the size and complexity of the trust, the number of beneficiaries, and whether there are any disputes over the trusts’ assets or their distribution. There is a minimum amount of work that must be done to administer even a small estate, so if the estate is very small, trust administration fees may equal statutory probate fees. However, for larger estates, attorneys fees to administer a living trust are much less than statutory probate fees.
We will give you our best estimate as to fees when we review the trust documents and the assets of the trust at our initial meeting with you. If our estimate changes because additional facts about assets or beneficiaries come to light, because beneficiaries dispute the distribution of the assets, or for any other reason, we will let you know promptly what the additional expense will be.
Other trust administration expenses include publication costs for notices to creditors, court filing fees where needed, minor administration costs, appraisers’ fees, accounting fees, and trustee’s fees (which are often waived where the trustee is a family member).
How SAN DIEGO LAW FIRM™ can help you with Living Trust Administration
SAN DIEGO LAW FIRM™ provides skilled, caring living trust administration services. We:
- Competently and promptly perform every legal task, so that you can have the peace of mind of knowing all paperwork and proceedings have been correctly handled without unnecessary delay.
- Provide complete, understandable legal advice to the successor trustee.
- Approach our tasks with sensitivity, understanding that bereavement can be very difficult for the family.
- Listen closely to you and make every effort to satisfy your requests.
- Make the living trust administration process as smooth and painless as possible.
- Work efficiently to control costs wherever possible.
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For more information or to schedule an appointment, click the button below, or call us at 619-794-0243. We look forward to helping you.