As part of the estate planning process, Irvine trust lawyers will always encourage clients to have open conversations with the person they intend to appoint as their Successor Trustee to ensure that they actually want the job if called upon. There are many responsibilities that someone’s successor trustee may be asked to handle (dealing with heirs, paying bills, accounting for assets, filing tax returns, etc.), and any mistakes or oversights could cause problems for heirs and even legal consequences for the Trustee.
Sometimes when a person is asked to serve in such a role, they accept without really taking the time to understand what may be expected of them. Then, when their loved one becomes incapacitated or passes away, the Trustee begins to second guess their decision or may wish to back out altogether.
The good news is that it is not mandatory to serve as someone’s Successor Trustee, even if you have been officially named in your loved one’s legal documents. It does not matter what the reason is – maybe your time is limited, you now live out of state, you have health challenges, etc. – there is a process for resignation so that you can pass the torch to the backup Trustee named in the trust.
To be clear, there is an official process that must be followed in order to resign as Trustee. Many times, the instructions for resignation are contained within the trust document itself. If the trust does not specifically provide a method for resignation, state law will then be followed which may include sending written notice to all beneficiaries of the trust. The best thing you can do is to speak with a trust attorney so that you are clear on what’s required for your particular situation.
With that said, sometimes Successor Trustees are tempted to decline their role because they feel overwhelmed or nervous that they do not have the experience necessary to administer an estate. This is normal and expected! That’s why there are trust administration lawyers. It is our job to assist Successor Trustees with their duties and help them carry out their responsibilities in the fastest and most cost-effective way possible. If you do not wish to relinquish your role completely but you simply would like some help and guidance, consider hiring an experienced attorney to help you manage your loved one’s estate.
If you have been appointed as someone’s Successor Trustee and you would like more information about working with one of our Irvine trust lawyers to assist with the legal duties that are now expected of you, please contact us at (949) 333-3702 to schedule an appointment.
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Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an Orange County estate planning attorney at Snyder Law, PC in Irvine, California. He’s all about family and passionate about estate planning, elder law, and veterans. He founded Snyder Law to help people be prepared and have the peace of mind they are protecting their families and aging parents for when life happens.