If a person dies and they have a Trust, the successor Trustee (the person or entity named in the Trust to take over), must “administer” the Trust. This requires they read and follow all of the instructions in the Trust, and comply with all of the state and federal laws to settle the decedent's affairs. This process is called Trust Administration.
The process for administering a Trust is similar to a probate in many ways; however, the biggest difference is that a Trust Administration is a private process whereas a probate is a court-supervised process.
Every Trust is different. However, in general, the Trustee’s duties involve the collection, management and investment of Trust assets, and the accumulation and distribution of income and principal pursuant to the terms of the Trust. There are notices that have to be given to all beneficiaries under the Trust and to all of the decedent's legal heirs. In addition, legal notices must be given to various government agencies. The Trustee must make a complete inventory of all of the assets of the Trust. Normally, title of the assets must be changed to reflect the change in trustee. Also, an Estate Tax Return may need to be filed.
The Trustee often hires attorneys, accountants, and investment advisors to consult with concerning the administration of the Trust, and may pay such advisors from the assets of the Trust.
A Trustee acts in a fiduciary capacity in the administration of a Trust, owing certain legal duties to the beneficiaries. The principal source of the Trustee’s powers and instructions is the Trust agreement itself, which should be read carefully. If the Trustee exceeds his powers, he may be held personally liable for loss or damage to the Trust estate. It is essential that the successor Trustee obtain legal advice in order to properly administer the Trust and be protected from liability to the beneficiaries.