When a trustee passes away or becomes incapacitated, someone else has to take over the trust. This new trustee is called a successor trustee and needs to learn about all of his or her duties in handling the trust.
Most revocable living trusts are created similarly in one regard - the person who created the trust acts as the trustee during his or her lifetime.
After the initial trustee passes away, or becomes incapacitated, someone else should be designated as the successor trustee. However, the successor trustee often does not know what exactly his or her duties are in many cases.
The Green Bay Gazette, in an article titled "Acting as a successor trustee," recently discussed some of the important responsibilities and liabilities that come with the role of serving as a successor trustee.
Generally speaking, the successor trustee has to follow the mandates of the trust.
In some cases the successor trustee will dissolve the trust and distribute the assets as described in the trust. In other cases, the successor will be responsible for managing the trust and investing the trust assets for later distribution to beneficiaries.
The important thing to do is to read the terms of the trust carefully without delay. That way the successor trustee will know what the specific legal obligations are.
For most people it would be very beneficial to have the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney, especially the one who prepared the trust appointing the successor. After all, that attorney is the one who knows best how to read the language of the trust. That attorney can help you understand what you need to do and, even more important, what not to do.
Reference: The Green Bay Gazette (November 24, 2014) "Acting as a successor trustee"