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What are the steps in the trust administration process?

If you've been named as a trustee, you have an important role to play in the administration process. It is your responsibility to carry out the administration of the trust, including gathering assets and distributing them to their intended beneficiaries.

Trust administration can be a complex and lengthy process. It is vital for trustees to understand the steps of trust administration, and what is required of them at each step.

First, you may want to hire an experienced attorney to advice and guide you throughout the process.

Step 1: Review trust and related documents – Locate and review the trust agreement and other documents in the estate plan, such as a pour-over will. Take note of the names and contact info for all beneficiaries and the deceased person's plan for distribution.

Step 2: File required documentation – You will need to file the will with the Probate court, a death certificate in the counties where the deceased person owned trust property and a Notice of Trust with the Probate Court.

Step 3: Obtain the authority to act as trustee – You can do this by showing evidence that you have been named to serve as trustee and by signing an Acceptance of Trustee form.

Step 4: Send notices to beneficiaries and other involved parties – In addition to sending notices to beneficiaries, you also will need to send notice to the post office, Social Security administration, deceased person's place of employment, utility companies, insurance companies, banks and brokers, and credit card issuers.

Step 5: Gather and inventory assets – Locate and take possession of all assets associated with the trust, including changing names on bank and investment accounts. Prepare a trust inventory with value of all trust assets.

Step 6: Determine the deceased person's debts – This includes bills for medical care and funeral homes.

Step 7: Administer the estate – Manage and keep record of income, expenses and real estate transactions. Insure the trust property.

Step 8: File tax returns and pay necessary taxes – This includes the deceased person’s final income tax return (Form 1040), the trust income tax return (Form 1041) and the estate tax return (Form 706).

Step 9: Distribute assets to beneficiaries  After all debts and administrative expenses are paid, distribute assets according to the distribution provisions in the trust agreement. 

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