The death of a loved one, particularly if the deceased is a spouse or parent, is one of the most difficult periods in a person’s life. At a time when the survivor is already struggling with loss and grief, the administration of the deceased’s trust can be an overwhelming and daunting task. That is why many beneficiaries and trustees choose to “leave things the way they are” and ultimately take no action regarding the administration of their loved one’s estate. This is especially true if the trustee is the same person as the beneficiary.
Again, sheer overwhelm is one reason for this, but beneficiaries and trustees also hesitate to administer their loved one’s estate out of fear they will encounter expensive legal costs, endless probate, or tax situations they may not be equipped to handle. Whatever the reason, people have been known to delay for months, or even years, which can make the eventual administration of the trust far more difficult. Unfortunately, most of these beneficiaries and trustees are unaware of the legal and fiduciary responsibilities of their position.
As a trust administration lawyer in Cary, North Carolina, part of my job is making sure my client is thoroughly informed about what to realistically expect from the trust. Most clients appreciate that assets held in trust are much easier to administer and distribute after death than through the probate process, but they also need to know that the successor trustee is required by law to do many things before the distribution of assets can occur.
As the requirements and obligations for trust administration can vary from state to state, it is important to be conscious of the role and the responsibilities for the beneficiaries and trustees in North Carolina. Duties include, but are not limited to the following:
- Notifying beneficiaries
- Valuation and Liquidation of Assets
- Paying Debts and Taxes of the Trust
- Filing Tax Returns
- Distribution of Remainder of the Assets to Beneficiaries
Additionally, it is compulsory for the trustee to follow the legal accounting and reporting requirements, and to be responsible for defending the trust against all claims of creditors or excluded heirs. Although the trustee may be unacquainted with all of these duties, an experienced trust lawyer knows exactly what is involved and can prepare forms and guide the administrator through the process.
That’s why for many people, having a lawyer who handles trust administration on their side makes this difficult time go far more smoothly and eases the administrative burden of having to close out a loved one’s estate. If you are now in this position and would like further information about how Carolina Family Estate Planning can help you, please feel free to give our office a call at 919-443-3035 and ask to schedule a complimentary consultation.