Russ Cook & Associates, PC

How to Make Life Easier for Your Successor Trustees

Wanting to make the estate planning process easier on yourself is understandable, but sometimes that can go too far and leave your beneficiaries struggling to figure out what to do after you die, even if you've set up a trust or will. You can help your heirs out by giving them some advice that enhances the information in the trust and guides them through the process.

Successor Trustees

It's typical for people to refer to someone's property and belongings as an estate and to the person in charge of disbursing the estate as an executor. However, that term takes on a specific meaning after you die. An executor works with a will and the decisions of a probate court. If you have set up a living trust, the people listed on the trust as beneficiaries must call themselves "successor trustees." If the trustees go into your bank, for example, and call themselves executors, the bank may insist on seeing the court paperwork appointing them as executors.

Because the point of a living trust is to avoid court, trustees won't have paperwork like this, and processes such as setting up a deposit account (to hold all money from the sale and closure of the estate and provide a central account from which to pay creditors) will be needlessly delayed.

Where Everything Is

Your trustees must have a list of where all your accounts are plus any additional properties that might be located away from your home like storage units and wine collections. If there is anything hidden at your home, like a silverware set you have concealed at the back of a deep cabinet, tell the trustees. In the general shock and confusion that follow a death, your trustees are going to be busy enough without wondering where you left that fabled coin collection you kept hinting about.

Every time you change the trust, be sure to destroy old lists of assets and provide new ones, dated, to the trustees. If your trustees are faced with hunting down three or four different lists of assets, many of which no longer exist, that will just frustrate them.

Your Passwords

Not being able to access an email or social media account can hamper a trustee's attempts to close accounts and notify people of your death. While there are processes for closing email accounts, for example, it's up to the company to provide access -- and they can decide not to provide it without giving your trustees a reason. Along with that list of assets, include a list of current passwords.

The more information you provide, the easier life will be for your trustees. For help in creating a comprehensive living trust and ensuring you have provided adequate information, try contacting an estate planning attorney for help.

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