Lawyer and client looking over estate planning document

Duties and Responsibilities of a Trustee – Estate Planning

When you create a living trust document as part of your estate planning, you will need to select someone to serve as the trustee of your trust. Usually, the person who creates the trust is the trustee during their lifetime. The successor trustee steps in to administer the trust after the original trustee passes on.

Choosing who will serve as your successor trustee is important. You will not be around to look over their shoulder and make sure they do what you wanted them to do. A Texas estate planning attorney can talk with you about the duties and responsibilities of a trustee in estate planning and brainstorm with you about possible candidates to fill that role.

An Overview of Living Trusts and Trustees

The person who sets up the trust is the “grantor.” When the grantor dies, the trustee will “settle” the trust. The precise tasks the trustee must perform will depend on the terms of the trust. Some trusts can be settled within six months to a year after the grantor dies. 

Some other trusts, like a special needs trust, might carry responsibilities that last for decades. This article will discuss the more common duties of a trustee in settling a living trust that does not include special terms of an ongoing nature. 

Common Duties of a Trustee of a Living Trust After the Grantor Dies

Usually, living trusts do not have to go through the probate court. Instead, the trustee takes care of things like the assets, debts, and tax returns without supervision from the court.

  1. The trustee will need to find the grantor’s legal documents, including information about the funeral and burial.
  2. If there is no executor of the estate of the decedent, the trustee will need to get several originals of the death certificate. Usually, the funeral director gets these papers for the trustee.
  3. The trustee will need to make a list of all outstanding debts of the estate, notify creditors, and provide notice of the death to potential creditors.
  4. The insurance company for any of the assets like real property or vehicles needs to get notice of the death.
  5. The trustee should make a list of all assets of the decedent along with the value of each asset as of the date of death.
  6. The trustee will open a bank account for the trust and consolidate the financial accounts into the trust account.
  7. The trustee will take all reasonable and necessary actions to protect the assets of the trust. 
  8. All valid deaths of the decedent and the estate need to get paid by the trustee out of trust assets.
  9. If the decedent or the trust owned life insurance or similar financial items, the trustee will file a claim for the proceeds to be paid according to the beneficiary designation.
  10. The trustee should meet with an estate planning attorney to make sure that the appropriate tax returns get filed for the decedent, the estate, and the trust.
  11. After all debts get paid and tax liabilities are handled, the trustee can distribute assets to the beneficiaries.

You do not have to perform all these tasks by yourself if someone names you to serve as the trustee of their living trust. You can work with a Texas estate planning attorney who can handle many of the responsibilities. For help with your case get in touch with our office today, we gladly offer a free consultation.