As Estate Planning attorneys in La Quinta, we frequently get calls from beneficiaries who have just received notice that they are named in a trust. Sometimes they require our services; sometimes they do not. Below is a guide to help trust beneficiaries through the murky waters of trust administrations.
Step 1: Read the entire Trust and all amendments
If you do not have a copy of the trust, request one. In California, all beneficiaries are entitled to a copy of the trust instrument and all amendments. If something is unclear in the trust, ask questions. You may be able to get satisfactory answers from the Trustee or the Trustee’s attorney. If you don’t you may need to contact a lawyer.
Step 2: Read the Will and any codicils
Sometimes personal effects (jewelry, clothing, heirlooms etc) are disposed of in a Will and not a Trust. You will want to know who gets what items. Again, ask questions if something is unclear to you.
Step 3: Decide if you want/need to contest the Trust provisions
Under certain circumstances, you only have 120 days after you were notified of a Trust to contest it. Therefore, if something in the Trust language doesn’t seem right or you have reason to believe that the Trust instrument does not reflect the true intentions of the Trustor (the individual who created the trust) then contact a lawyer.
Step 4: Be patient
Trust administrations can take time to complete. There may be many different bank accounts at different locations and the Trustee must collect all of these assets. There may also be real property, which takes time to sell.
Step 5: Request and review an accounting
Under California law, beneficiaries are entitled to an accounting of all the Trust assets within one (1) year of death of the Trustor. If you have not received a timely accounting, request one. Then, review it carefully. Again, if something doesn’t seem right, contact an experienced trust attorney.
Step 6: Don’t sign anything that you do not understand
As a beneficiary, you will probably need to sign receipts for things or money you received. However, if you are presented with a document that you do not understand, then ask questions or seek legal advice.
The important thing to remember is to ask questions whenever something is unclear or you don’t understand a certain process. A trust attorney may be necessary if a problem arises.