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Trustee Duties & Responsibilities in California

Many people opt for a living trust when deciding to protect their assets because the document is not required to go through the expensive, public, and lengthy process of probate. Typically, the affairs of a trust can be settled in a fraction of the time of a will that passes through probate (which can take over a year), and the proceedings can also be done so in private. However, what many trustees and other beneficiaries of a trust fail to realize is the document must be administered and managed once the creator of the trust passes away.

Trust administration is the process that takes place after the death of the settlor (creator of the trust) and is done to help the estate distribute its assets, as well as avoid any extra tax liabilities or penalties that may arise during the transfer of property or other assets. While hiring an attorney during the trust administration process is not legally required, doing so is highly recommended, as the process of administering a trust can be complicated and time-consuming (which requires the services of an experienced professional).


How to Start the Trust Administration Process in California

Trust administration begins with the trustee sending out notices to all beneficiaries and heirs, informing them of the settlor’s death. The trustee has 60 days to mail out the notices while the recipients have up to 120 days to file a trust contest. Beneficiaries and heirs forfeit their right to file a trust contest after 120 days. However, if the trustee fails to mail the notices, each heir has a much greater statute of limitations for filing a contest, which can last up to four years in some cases.This initial step during trust administration is something that often gets overlooked by trustees handling the process without an attorney, and it can cause headaches years later when a relative can file a claim after most people in the family thought the affairs were settled.

Notice Requirements

The notices that are sent out within 60 days of the settlor’s passing, under California Probate Code Section 16061.7, can be quite complicated and must include the following:

  • Notifications must be served to each of the settlor’s heirs and beneficiaries.
  • Notifications must be mailed to the last known address or delivered in person.
  • Notifications must contain the identity of the settlor of the trust and date of the death.
  • Notifications must include the mailing address and telephone number of each trustee.

Notations must state that the recipient is entitled to request a complete copy of the terms of the trust.

Trust administration notices can be a complicated ordeal as they need to follow a detailed set of rules and regulations laid out by the law. A trustee who does not mail out the notifications correctly or makes a mistake when sending them out can be held legally responsible for the errors. When a trust owns real property, which is typically the case in most situations, many steps must be followed to sell, distribute or administer the assets. The key is to complete the process correctly the first time around.

Why Should You Have an Attorney Administer the Trust?

Administering a trust is less expensive and much quicker than being tied up in probate. By completing the task correctly, with the help of a trust administration attorney, you will only save your estate time and money. If you are in the process of administering a trust or will be soon, contact us for a Free consultation. Our legal team will provide you will the best course of action for settling your family’s estate and distributing the assets to future generations. We look forward to working with you.

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How long does a trustee have to distribute assets in California?

The Administrator of the Trust should complete the distribution of assets to the heirs within twelve to eighteen months after the Trust administration begins, assuming there are no complications, such as lawsuits or disagreements between heirs regarding their inheritance.

How long does a trustee have to notify beneficiaries in California?

The Trust Administrator or Successor Trustee has 60 days after becoming Trustee to provide written notice to all beneficiaries and heirs if the trust becomes irrevocable upon the death of the Settlor.

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