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.