Are you the successor trustee of someone’s trust who has just died? We can help you. We provide trust administration legal services in Houston to help our clients through this difficult time. It may seem like your world is falling apart, but there are still many things that can be done in order for everything to run smoothly and without any problems.
A “living” trust (also called an “inter vivos” trust) is simply a trust you create while you’re alive. The beneficiaries you name in your living trust receive the trust property when you die. You could instead use a will, but wills must go through probate—the court process that oversees the transfer of your property to your beneficiaries.
Many people create a revocable living trust as part of their estate plan. You can modify or revoke (cancel) this type of trust at any time. Typically, you’ll name yourself as the “trustee” of your trust. This means that while you’re alive, you retain control of the trust and its property. In your trust document, you’ll also name a “successor trustee” to take over and manage the trust after you die; this person will distribute the property in the trust to your beneficiaries. (If you create a shared living trust, as is often done by married couples, then your successor trustee would assume control after both spouses have died.)
In contrast, irrevocable trusts cannot be revoked or modified after they are signed. Irrevocable trusts can be useful tools for specific goals, like reducing taxes, but they require giving up ownership and control of trust property.
In Texas, If I Make a Living Trust, Do I Still Need a Will?
Yes, you’ll still need a will. This might seem confusing—isn’t the point of a living trust to avoid needing a will? Yes, it is, and your will might never be used. But you should still write one, for one or both of the following reasons:
- Designating a guardian for minor children. You cannot use a trust to name a guardian for your minor children. For this reason alone, if you have minor children, you should write a will that names the guardian.
- Accounting for property that you have not transferred to your trust. It happens all the time—people create a trust and forget to formally transfer property to the trust (for example, they never get around to changing the deed on their house). Or, people buy or inherit property after they’ve set up their trust, and forget or don’t know to take ownership as the trustee of their trust. Either way, the property will not be distributed according to the terms of the trust. You should have a will as a backup to dictate how assets that are not in the trust should be distributed.
How is Trust Administration Different than Probate?
Probate is required if the decedent had a will or no-will at all.
If they had any type of trust, it’s completely administered in our office without the costs or delays to the processes associated with probate.
What do I do first after the grantor or trustee dies?
You should call our office three weeks of the grantor or trustee’s death to schedule your virtual or in-office appointment.
Here are some steps you can take before your first appointment to ensure that it goes smoothly:
- If the residence is empty, consider changing locks to prevent squatters or anyone else from entering
- The insurance company needs to be contacted so that they can verify if your homeowners’ policy is up-to date
- I’d recommend reaching out to the alarm company since they will need your information in case of emergencies
- Contact all of the decedent’s financial accounts to freeze them until after you meet with an attorney.
What are My Responsibilities as a Trustee?
Here are some of the tasks you must complete to ensure a smooth transition:
- Identify and preserve the assets of the estate
- Identify the legitimate debts of the decedent
- Identify the gifts of cash, personal and real property as specified in the trust
- Keep the beneficiaries informed at all times as to the progress of the trust administration
Tasks that will require legal counsel include:
- Pay the legitimate debts of the decedent
- Distribute cash gifts, gifts of personal and real property as specified in the trust
- Sell any real property not to be distributed to the beneficiaries
- Pay the final distribution to the beneficiaries named in the trust
- Sell or dispose of the remaining personal property of the decedent
Please contact us for the full list and assistance completing them.
Why Choose Attorney Brown for Your Trust Administration?
With nearly two decades of experience, Principal Attorney Christy K. Brown is a No-Nonsense, Forward-Thinking, and Result-Oriented probate, estate planning, and business lawyer, and she’s committed to handling each of her clients’ concerns equally, creatively, relentlessly and in a personal way from the first meeting. Schedule your free 15 minute phone consultation today to learn more about how we can help you through the probate process.