I want to briefly address the responsibilities of the successor trustee once the trustor(s), in many situations your parents, have passed away. Stepping into the role of trustee is a big job, at our firm we regularly host a client workshop titled Trustee School where we dive into the responsibilities of the trustee in a 2 hour presentation so it is impossible to outline all of the responsibilities in a few points.

One of the first things to do is order death certificates, it’s good to order at least 10. You may not think you will need that many but it is better to have them on hand. The next thing you should do is contact the attorney that set up the trust if possible or find an estate planning attorney that you feel comfortable working with. As a trustee you have a fiduciary duty, to your parents as well as the beneficiaries and if you don’t responsibly carry out these duties there may be legal repercussions. If you are trustee and sole beneficiary you still have to go through the proper channels of administering the trust.

There is a pretty common myth that once the creator of the trust passes away everything just happens. This is not true, while a trust will keep you out of court there is still an administration process and the assets are not immediately disbursed. As a trustee you should seek legal counsel to ensure you are carrying out your fiduciary duty. There is still a cost that accompanies trust administration, however it is significantly cheaper than Probate expenses.