When a family member dies it is a difficult time for the entire family. Along with the grieving, there are a number of practical and legal issues that must be addressed following a death. Ideally, the deceased left behind a thorough estate plan that was discussed with the family ahead of time so there are no major surprises. Sometimes, however, things don’t work that way. Imagine, for example, that you were just informed that you are the Trustee of a testamentary trust your aunt made prior to her death. What do you do now?
Unfortunately, this happens for more often than you may realize. People create an estate plan and fail to discuss important positions in the plan with the people intended to fill those positions. As a result you may end up with an Executor who had no idea he/she was appointed as the executor, a guardian who was unaware of the nomination, or a Trustee of a testamentary trust agreement who was never consulted about the job. Since it is too late to change how your aunt handled your appointment as Trustee, it is best to look forward at this point and decide what to do next. Although every situation is unique, the following steps are common enough that they will likely apply to your situation:
- Accept or refuse. Just because your aunt appointed you as the Trustee of her trust doesn’t mean you are required to accept the appointment. You can always refuse the job.
- Consult an attorney. If you decide to accept the position as Trustee, consult with an experienced South Carolina estate planning attorney immediately to ensure that you understand the terms of the trust agreement and your duties and responsibilities as the Trustee.
- Read the agreement. Sit down with your attorney and go through the trust agreement carefully to make sure you know what is expected of you as the Trustee.
- Familiarize yourself with assets. Conduct an inventory of trust assets. Make sure you know what they are, where they are, and have some idea of their value.
- Notify beneficiaries. Beneficiaries of the trust have a right to know who the Trustee is. Along with your attorney you may want to draft a “letter of introduction” and send it to all the beneficiaries.
If you have additional questions or concerns about trust agreements, Trustees, or estate planning in general, contact the experienced South Carolina estate planning attorneys at Kuhn & Kuhn Law Firm by calling 843-577-3700 to schedule your appointment.