Being a successor trustee of someone's revocable living trust is not something that people do every day. In fact, many people will never do it. That is why most people are unfamiliar with how to complete a trust settlement.
There are six main steps:
- Do inventory. The best place to start is by gathering all of the decedent's estate planning documents and other relevant papers. Make a list of all assets and special instructions.
- Meet with a trust attorney to go over the documents with you. Find out if anything will need to go through probate. For instance, if the decedent had a pour-over will and assets need to be added to the trust, those items will be subject to probate. Your trust attorney can handle the probate process for you.
- Place values on the decedent's assets as of the date of death. Some things may need a professional appraiser to determine their worth.
- Pay the decedent's final bills before anything gets dispersed. You may have to sell some of the assets to pay bills or taxes owed by the decedent.
- File the decedent's final income and/or state taxes.
- Distribute property, assets or money to the beneficiaries as instructed in the trust.
If there are items that are in probate, the beneficiaries of those items will have to wait until probate is complete before they receive them. You will need to continue to work closely with the trust attorney throughout the process. Probate can sometimes take up to a year or longer; however, the trust settlement is not complete until it is final, and all assets have been properly distributed.
Source: The Balance, "Estate Planning Settle a Revocable Trust After the Trustmaker Dies," Julie Garner, accessed Dec. 15, 2017