As you have likely already discovered, the duties of a successor trustee are numerous and varied. One important responsibility is the management and protection of trust assets. In order to properly protect these assets, the trustee must first take possession. The manner in which to do so varies depending on the type of asset the trustee is dealing with.
Taking Title to Assets of the Trust
While there are many different ways to take title of an asset depending on its type, certain assets are more common than others. The following is an overview for taking title to three of the more common assets types in a trust administration, assuming these assets were already held in trust prior to the decedent’s passing:
- Real estate. Real estate held in the trust prior to the decedent’s death will have a deed on record with the county recorder in Orange County, or the appropriate county where the property is located. The deed states that the property is held by the trust. After the decedent passes away, the successor trustee will typically prepare and record an affidavit of death of the original trustee. This document is used to show that the decedent is no longer acting as trustee of the trust, and instead, the successor trustee is now the trustee. The successor trustee is able to sign deeds or otherwise transfer title to the property.
- Financial accounts. Most banks and brokerage houses will request a trust certificate in order to transfer accounts held in trust to the successor trustee. The trust certificate must comply with California law and state certain information about the trustees and the trust. The successor trustee will then present the financial institution with the trust certificate, a death certificate, and proper personal identification. The successor trustee is then allowed to collect the cash or securities held in the account.
- Personal property. Some types of personal property have no means of registering title, such as furniture, clothing, or tools. For these items, the trustee simply takes possession, if possible. In situations where someone else is holding the property and refuses to deliver it over to the trustee, it may be necessary to seek court intervention.
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