Most people have little experience dealing with what happens after their loved one dies and they have been named as the successor Trustee who will be in charge of settling their loved one's Revocable Living Trust. The purpose of this guide is to provide a general overview of the six steps required to settle and then terminate a Revocable Living Trust after the Trustmaker dies.
The first step in settling a Revocable Living Trust is to locate all of the decedent's original estate planning documents and other important papers.
Aside from locating the original Revocable Living Trust agreement and any trust amendments, you'll also need to locate the decedent's original Pour-Over Will. In addition, the decedent may have left written funeral, cremation, burial or memorial instructions and a personal property memorandum. All original documents should be stored in a safe place until they can be given to the trust attorney.
The decedent's other important papers will include information about the decedent's assets, including bank and brokerage statements, stock and bond certificates, life insurance policies, corporate records, car and boat titles, and deeds for real estate; and information about the decedent's debts, including utility bills, credit card bills, mortgages, personal loans, medical bills and the funeral bill. Refer to What Documents Are Needed After Someone Dies? for a detailed list of the specific documents that will need to be located.
Once all of the important documents have been located, read the Revocable Living Trust to determine its specific provisions. When reviewing the trust, make notes about the following - special instructions regarding the decedent's funeral, cremation or burial; who gets the decedent's personal effects; who gets any specific bequests; who gets the decedent's residuary trust; who is named as the successor Trustee(s) to settle the trust as well as who is named as Trustee(s) of any trusts that need to be created now that the Trustmaker has died; the date and location where the trust agreement was signed; and who signed the trust as witnesses and Notary Public.
In addition to reading the Revocable Living Trust and summarizing what it says, review the decedent's financial documents and make a list of what the decedent owned and owed, how each asset is titled (in the name of the trust, in the Trustmaker's individual name, as tenants in common, or in joint names with someone else), and, for assets and debts that have a statement, the value of the asset or debt as listed on the statement and the date of the statement. In addition, the decedent's prior three years of income tax returns should be located and set aside.
Once the decedent's important documents have been sorted through, the next is to meet with an trust attorney to determine if probate will be required and if the attorney's assistance will be needed to settle the trust.Trust Settlement Checklist - 6 Steps to Settling a Revocable Living Trust