One of the questions that our clients ask us time and again is, “How exactly does the successor trustee access our estate?”. There are three main items that any successor trustee will need to have in place in order to start adminisering your trust and winding down your estate.
The first item is the death certificate, which takes anywhere from ten to fourteen business days to arrive. Next, the successor trustee will need a tax identification number, since the social security number of the trustor(s) can no longer be used after the trustor(s) pass away. Finally, the successor trustee will need a copy of the living trust document (which will verify that the person is in fact named as the successo trustee).
With these three documents, the successor trustee can begin visitng any financial institution that trust assets may be located at. After presenting these three items to the financial institution, the financial institution will change the title on the trust account. For example, if Billy Smith is named as the successor trustee of his parents' trust and the trust accounts originally were titled in the name of “Husband and Wife, Trustees of the Smith Family Trust”, the bank will now re-title those accounts to read roughly as follows: “Billy, Successor Trustee of the Smith Family Trust”. Billy could now start distributing the assets in the bank accounts in accordance with his parents' trust document.
Of course, there are many steps involved in winding down a trust, and this is meant to provide only a general overview of the preliminary steps to accessing the assets of the trust after the trustor or trustors have passed away. For specific answers to your situation or for help winding down the trust you were named to administer, please contact our office now at (714) 459-5481 and one of our experienced and professional attorneys at the Law Office of James F. Roberts & Associates, APC, will be glad to gently guide you through the process.