After a grantor dies, most trusts allow but do not require that the successor Executor/Trustee seek guidance from an attorney during the administration process. However, hiring a qualified trust and estates attorney is something you should strongly consider if you are serving in that role.
If you are the Executor/Trustee, you are required to understand and abide by the terms of the will or trust instrument. In addition, there are duties and responsibilities required under the laws of your state, many of which likely aren’t outlined in those documents. Without a thorough understanding of the applicable documents and state laws, you may inadvertently be neglecting some important duties as Executor/Trustee. This can result in costly mistakes (which can’t always be undone). Under certain circumstances, you can even be held personally liable for those mistakes. That’s because an Executor/Trustee is considered a fiduciary and owes a fiduciary duty, which is the highest duty that a person can owe.
The following is a list of just some of the many reasons why seeking guidance from a qualified trust and estates attorney is in your best interest:
The will/trust may not go into great detail as to what your specific duties are as Executor/Trustee. Your attorney can outline these responsibilities for you and help ensure that you carry them out.
A qualified trust and estates attorney will be well-versed in all of the laws, rules, and regulations that accompany the administration process.
Providing notice to beneficiaries and other interested parties is a very important part of the administration process. If you are not familiar with the process for giving notice, you may do so incorrectly. This can result in delays for the administration and additional (possibly significant) costs to the estate/trust.
An attorney can help protect you from potential liability by advising you when your actions could be considered negligent, fraudulent, or in bad faith.
Administrations can also be very time-consuming and near impossible for those who are working. An attorney can handle many of the time-consuming responsibilities associated with being an Executor/Trustee.
An attorney can help you properly manage the assets of the estate/trust to minimize the potential for complaints or lawsuits brought by unhappy beneficiaries.
An attorney can ensure that any tax-related obligations are carried out. Since some of the tax issues surrounding an administration are under strict timelines, this is very important.
A qualified trust and estates attorney can help you administer an Estate/Trust correctly and save you a lot of time and energy making sure you follow California law. They can also help to protect you against liability. Most Estates/Trusts authorize the payment of fees for such professional services out of the Estate/Trust, making it affordable for you to consult with a qualified attorney. To learn more, call us for an appointment.