If you have been named the executor of a will or the trustee of a trust and the time has come for you to perform the duties of executor or trustee, you may be asking yourself, “What in the world have I got myself into?!” While it may all seem a bit overwhelming, you job is rather straight forward. It is your responsibility to locate, maintain, and ultimately distribute the assets of the estate according to the terms of the will or trust document.
Step One: Inventory
One of your first jobs will be to take an inventory of all the estate property. This means that you must diligently go through records, bank statements, past tax returns, etc. to locate all the decedent’s personal and real property that is to be administered through the probate or trust administration.
Step Two: Proper Management of The Assets
Once you have figured out exactly what assets are there, you must properly manage those assets. This means that you must keep very good records, make prudent investments, and keep the estate assets separate from other assets. In general, there can be a lot of restrictions on what you may and may not do with the estate assets. You should not spend any of the money from the estate unless you have discussed it with an attorney and/or have a court order to do so. You should also make certain that certain assets are properly insured in case of a loss. If you do not follow all the proper policies and procedures, you can be removed as the administrator of the estate or the trustee, and you may even be held financially liable by the beneficiaries for any mismanagement of the estates assets. It is important to have an attorney on your side that will guide you through this process.
Step Three: Administer the Estate
There are legal notices that should go out to heirs at law and even creditors, whether you are administering a trust or a probate. Additionally, you may be required to sell real or personal property and make distributions of the estate assets to the beneficiaries. This process is fraught with pitfalls that you may innocently fall into without the guidance of an experienced estate attorney. The California Court system agrees and includes in the “Duties and Liabilities” for the probate administrator the instructions “When in doubt, contact your attorney.”
If you are faced with a probate or trust administration, we have a team of experienced attorneys and legal staff that are on standby waiting to answer your questions and ensure that you handle your duties properly. Contact us now for a complimentary consultation to see how we can help you navigate though the administration of an estate.