Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

Get advice on money matters from The Bee's Claudia Buck and a panel of local experts

August 30, 2012
Does a trustee need a lawyer for a trust administration?

Q: I have a revocable trust but do not know how to advise my trustees how to handle my trust after I am gone. Is there a list of where to start? The only option I know is to hire an attorney, which a trust is supposed to eliminate or at least reduce. --Gaylord, Placerville, CA

A: A Revocable Trust is a great estate planning tool. If done properly, a trust eliminates court supervised probate and simplifies the estate administration process. A Revocable Trust does not, however, eliminate the need for an attorney in most situations.

The trust administration process varies depending on such things as the size and complexity of the assets in the trust and the number and relationship of the trust beneficiaries. For the trusts that I see after someone has died, working with an experienced lawyer definitely makes the process go more smoothly for the trustee. For a simple trust administration, a single consultation with a lawyer may be all that is needed. At our firm's initial trust administration meetings, we provide an overview of the process to the Trustee, and I think most lawyers do something similar.

In an earlier Q&a on Aug. 16, I discussed the general steps involved, so I refer you to that answer for more specifics about the process.

Although many steps are the same, it is important to recognize that each trust administration is different. Consulting with an experienced lawyer will inform your trustee of the exact steps required by your trust and your situation. This can help protect your trustee from claims that he/she did not fulfill his/her duties.

Your trustee may be able to get low-cost assistance through the State Bar's Lawyer Referral Services. on their website at http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/LawyerReferralServicesLRS.aspx.

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Meet Our Financial Experts

Claudia Buck

Claudia Buck is The Sacramento Bee's personal finance columnist. Read all her columns here. Contact her at cbuck@sacbee.com

Terri Carpenter

Terri Carpenter offers advice on job hunting, retraining and career counseling. Carpenter works at Sacramento Works Inc., the career and job training arm of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA). With 15 years in the field, she has hands-on experience with everyone from first-time job seekers to career professionals seeking advice after a layoff or looking for a mid-career change. Ask her a question.

Carlena Tapella

Carlena Tapella is a partner in the law firm of Webb & Tapella Law Corp. in Sacramento. The firm specializes in estate planning and probate, such as estates, trusts, conservatorships and litigation. She is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association's Estate Planning & Probate Section. Ask her a question.

Kimberly Foss

Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner, is the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville. With nearly 30 years in the financial industry, her clients include women in transition, small business owners, retirees and "pre-retirees." Ask her a question.

Jesse Weller

Gregory Burke, a CPA and tax expert with John Waddell & Co. in Sacramento since 1984, worked as an IRS tax auditor for six years. He’s a past chairman of the California Society of CPAs. Ask him a question.

Daniel Tahara

Daniel Tahara takes your questions about California taxes. Tahara, a spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board, has 10 years of experience as a tax auditor. Ask him a question.



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