The trust administration process is generally overseen by the person who the trust creator, or settlor, has named as the trustee upon the trust execution. If the settlor served as the primary trustee of the trust, which is very common, then the settlor should have named a successor trustee to take over trust management in the event of the settlor’s death or incapacity.
When the settlor has passed away, the trustee will be in charge of managing the assets in the trust until the assets can be transferred to new owners through the trust administration. The process occurs outside of the courts, unlike with probate assets. Usually, court review or oversight will not be necessary, unless there is a problem, such as the beneficiaries alleging that the trust administrator is not fulfilling their obligations, or there is an inheritance tax to be paid where a trust accounting may be required.
The trust administrator has a fiduciary duty during the administration process, which is the highest duty that is owed under the law. The trust administrator cannot act for personal gain at the expense of the trust beneficiaries and cannot proceed in a gross or reckless manner regarding the management of trust assets or the administration of the trust. The trustee must comply with the directives of the deceased, will need to ensure that the trust assets are cared for properly, and will need to oversee the formal process of facilitating the ownership transfer.
Heirs or beneficiaries do not have as active of a role to play in the trust administration process as does the administrator. However, because it is their inheritance held in the trust that the trust administrator is in charge of transferring, those who stand to inherit from a trust should ensure they monitor the trust administration.
Sinclair Prosser Gasior can offer invaluable assistance with every step of the trust administration process. If you have been named as a trustee, we can guide you through the fulfillment of your obligations to comply with both the law and the terms of the trust.