When a loved one has taken the time to create a trust, the administration and distribution of the estate is typically set by the trust document (with other California laws regarding trusts). If drafted properly, the trust should name the person who is in charge of managing and distributing the estate (“successor trustee” or “trustee”). If you are named in the trust as the successor trustee, you have certain fiduciary duties and you must follow the terms of the trust for the benefit of the estate and beneficiaries. One of these duties is to keep the beneficiaries informed of the trust and the trust administration. Another important duty is the duty of accounting for the trust. This includes making a list of all assets in the trust at the date of death of the trust-maker (“settlor”), all assets owed to the trust, all trust expenditures, and all distributions from the trust. Depending on the size of the estate, this can be a time-consuming and stressful job for the trustee, especially if the trustee is still dealing with the grief from the loss of a loved one. It is important that the successor trustee obeys all of their duties in administering the trust, as not doing so can result in litigation between family members. Litigation can sometimes get very personal in this field of law and it is best to avoid it if possible. Many times, litigation can easily be avoided by the proper handling of the trust. For these reasons, it is wise to consult an attorney for assistance in administering the trust.
Beneficiaries of a trust also need to pay attention to the trust administration to ensure that it is being handled properly. As noted above, trust litigation can get very personal and sometimes it can destroy family relationships. Hiring an experienced trust attorney can help to ensure that the trust is managed properly and that you receive what you are entitled to as a beneficiary of a trust.