Trust Administration Attorneys Assisting Beneficiaries and Their Families After the Death of a Loved One
In California, there are multiple steps that are necessary in the administration of a trust, from giving notice to distributing trust assets to the beneficiaries.
Administering a trust is complex under the best circumstances, and it is important to work with a trust administration attorney in California who can ensure that all steps required by California law are followed so that the beneficiaries can obtain the assets they need. Trust administration can become more complicated and contentious when questions of trust litigation arise. While many trust litigation cases can be resolved without going to court, it is critical to have an experienced advocate assist you throughout this process. Our California trust administration lawyers can help.
Taking the Necessary Steps for Trust Administration in California
The first steps in any California trust administration case involve locating the trust and its assets, and providing appropriate notice so that the trust administration can go forward.
When a loved one has passed away and you know that a trust exists, the first step in the trust administration process is to find the trust. While it can be difficult to sort through a variety of documents and paperwork while grieving for a loved one, it is critical to locate all estate planning documents that will provide details about the trust. Relevant documents may include a current or past will, list of trust assets, income tax returns, gift tax returns, and any relevant accounts.
Once information about a trust is located, it is necessary to provide proper notice according to California law. Notice requirements come up quickly after a person’s death, and you must pay close attention to avoid any problems in trust administration. Notice requirements simply mean that the trust administrator must provide notice to any and all of the legal heirs of the deceased and to the beneficiaries of the trust. California law does not have a specific notice form that is used to inform heirs and beneficiaries, but notice must still be given.
There are other notice requirements that exist under California law. Typically, within 30 days after the death, the estate plan and death certificate must be filed with the probate court. Then, within 60 days after the death, heirs and beneficiaries must receive written notice concerning the administration of the trust.
The steps outlined above must occur before any assets are actually transferred from a trust to a beneficiary. Once any existing trusts have been identified, and heirs and beneficiaries have received proper notice, the trustee must begin taking steps with an eye toward the long-term administration of the trust. Unlike assets distributed through a will after a person’s death, assets held in a trust are not ordinarily distributed all at once upon a death. Instead, assets held in a trust are distributed to beneficiaries over a period of time based on the terms of the trust.
Planning for the management of a trust should be part of any discussions you have about trust administration with a California trust administration attorney. In administering a trust over time, you need to gain a clear understanding of your fiduciary duties to the trust beneficiaries, which means investing trust assets in a way that earns returns for the beneficiary but minimizes risk. In addition to fiduciary duties associated with trust administration, it will also be necessary to gather information and to file certain documents on a regular basis, along with other tasks. The California Probate Code outlines how trust administrators must prepare a trust accounting, and it is critical to do so in accordance with the law. You will also need to file tax returns, including trust taxes and taxes from the estate of the deceased. A trust administrator will also need to develop a plan for distributing assets from the trust according to the instructions in the trust documents.
Distributing Trust Assets to Beneficiaries in California
Administering a trust requires a significant amount of work before any assets from a trust can actually be distributed to the beneficiary or the beneficiaries. Once that work is completed and all necessary accounting and distribution plans are in place, the trustee will be tasked with distributing the trust. Depending upon the assets contained by the trust, it may be necessary to perform additional work beyond simply distributing liquid assets to a beneficiary.
In distributing a trust, you may be required to prepare deeds and to handle title transfers, for example. You should work with a California trust administration attorney to ensure that you have properly prepared for the distribution of all assets, including liquid assets, real property, and other investments. Generally speaking, trust distributions should begin to occur within about three months after heirs and beneficiaries have received the written notification required under California law.
Planning Ahead for the Possibility of Trust Litigation
As you are preparing to administer a trust and to distribute the assets held by a trust to the beneficiary or beneficiaries, you will need to keep in mind that there is a possibility that a trust dispute could arise, or that trust litigation could occur in the future. Accordingly, it is essential to keep track of every step you take in administering the trust and to maintain all receipts for beneficiary distributions.
Your trust administration attorney in California can help you to develop a plan to avoid trust disputes and trust litigation inasmuch as possible, and to be prepared in the event a dispute does arise.
Trust Administration Attorneys in California Serving Diverse Clients
Trust administration in California is a complex process, and it is critical to have one of our experienced California trust administration attorneys on your side to assist you with this process from start to finish. From identifying trusts and notifying beneficiaries to handling litigation, our firm can assist you.