How To Administer a Trust

Aug 25, 2020


If you’re a trustee, you might be wondering what your next steps are. Trust administration is following the instructions a decedent leaves in the form of legal documents. To administer a trust, you, as the trustee, are in charge of administering those written instructions, beginning by gathering and organizing all estate planning materials.

What to Gather to Administer a Trust 

As a trustee, you’re in charge of gathering material such as bills, other information, and various important documents, including:

  • Death certificate issued from the funeral arrangement company. You’ll need to order 5 to 10 copies of the death certificate. The more the better!
  • Notify Social Security Administrationof the death by calling 800-722-1213.
  • Notify the state Department of Health
  • Identify the trust beneficiaries
  • Collect information on all trust property
  • Protect and insure trust property
  • Set up a record keeping system

When you have the necessary information, you can hire an estate planning attorney to help administer the trust and help with tasks such as  giving notice to all the beneficiaries and heirs at law, lodging a deceased loved one’s Will with the court clerk of their county, notifying certain government agencies of the death, reviewing trust investments, inventorying trust assets, and planning how to fund sub-trusts.

Sub-Trust Set Up

Most marital trusts have some subdivision of the trust assets when a “first” death occurs. This essentially means that the trust may split into 2 or more trusts when the first spouse dies, depending on how it is drafted. A trust administration attorney needs to establish and bring to life the sub-trusts. Knowing what type of trustyou have will tell you a lot about how complex or simple the administration will be.

Asset Distribution of a Living Trust

The asset distribution process depends on the instructions one has left behind in their will or trust. In simpler cases, a successor trustee can transfer asset ownership to the sole beneficiary if there is one person listed as beneficiary. Asset distribution splits into percentages when multiple beneficiaries are involved

As a trustee, you’re in charge of distributing assets to the heirs and beneficiaries listed in the decedent’s trust. You also have the power to transfer ownership of bank accounts and property titles into beneficiary names.


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