After a trust settlor dies, the trustee often needs to gather important information about the trust. The settlor’s death triggers the need to inventory the trust assets and perform administrative tasks. A trustee in this situation must first locate documents relating to the trust, then notify beneficiaries.
Why Does the Trustee Need to Act After the Settlor Dies?
When the sole settlor of a revocable trust dies, the trust becomes irrevocable. No one can change the terms of the trust or add property to it. Moreover, the trust settlor is no longer the trustee – instead, a successor trustee takes over.
The successor trustee needs to notify the beneficiaries that the trust settlor has died and that the successor trustee is now in charge of the trust. In addition, the successor trustee needs to figure out which assets are part of the trust. Then the trustee must go about managing those assets and making distributions as required by the trust document.
Which Documents Does the Trustee Need?
The successor trustee must gather many different types of documents related to the trust. Most importantly, the trustee needs the trust document and any amendments. Further, the trustee probably needs documents relating to the settlor’s and the trust’s assets. For example, the trustee may need copies of the settlor’s will to determine if the settlor left any assets to the trust. In addition, the trustee might need:
- The settlor’s bank statements
- Statements for brokerage or investment accounts
- The settlor’s death certificate
- Title for vehicles that were left to the trust
- Property deeds for any properties that were left to the trust
- Life insurance beneficiary designations
- Tax returns, including any filed on the trust’s behalf
Depending on which kinds of assets the settlor had or the trust now holds, the trustee may need even more documents. The trustee is tasked with transferring property ownership and assuring that trust assets are protected – even while the rest of the settlor’s estate goes through probate. To do so, the trustee needs these important documents.
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