Key Things To Note When You Are Acting as a Successor Trustee of a Trust

When you act as a successor trustee of a trust, you will want to know the potential errors to avoid with respect to trusts.  Keep in mind that the focus goal of a trust is to ultimately distribute the trust assets to the beneficiaries.   Along that road, you have duties that must be kept and beneficiaries who will be looking over your shoulder when you act.

What information must you give a beneficiary when you act as a trustee?

California trust law requires that a successor trustee give reasonable information to the beneficiaries of the trust.   What is this magical reasonable information?  Reasonable information is the type of information which the beneficiary needs to know to make a logical decision about the consequences of your action with respect to the trust.  Requesting a copy of the trust is a reasonable request for information. For example, when you go to sell a property of the trust, you will want to give notice of proposed action to the beneficiary, so he or she can determine if he agrees or disagrees with your sale.   A duty of accounting is also on you as a successor trustee.

When do you have to give the information to the beneficiary?

The information has to get to the beneficiary in a timely way so that the beneficiary has sufficient time to get legal advice and to communicate his or her decision with you.   The law requires that you give 45 days when you send a notice of proposed action.   To expedite a trust sale, you can pick up the phone, explain the terms, and then send out the notice of prosed action.   This eases the way to a successful transaction as the beneficiary will see that you are engaging his or her cooperation.

What happens if you don’t provide the necessary data to the beneficiaries?

If you take an action without giving sufficient notice, the beneficiary can object to your action at the time of your accounting.  Don’t wait.   Send notice, email and call beneficiaries to keep them in the loop of all transactions in the trust.  Simple positive gestures by a successor trustee to involve the beneficiaries will result in positive outcomes most of the times.  If you are asked about a copy of a trust and do not comply, the beneficiary can compel this in court and ask for attorney’s fees.

You should get advice from a trusts and estates attorney in Los Angeles before trouble ensues!

Trusts can be complicated to administer.  Your trusts and estate administration attorney can give you tips before trouble arises.   Asking for advice is the best remedy to prevent lawsuits from occurring.  So, get advice, document the advice, and follow up with recommendations of your trust lawyer in Los Angeles.   Your will be thankful that you obtained the advice before the case gets in the Los Angeles court.

How much can you charge as your trustee’s fees as a trustee of a trust, when you become a successor trustee?

Reasonable fees depend on the amount of work and complications of trusts in California.   In most cases, 1-1.5% are common trustees fees.   In other cases, the work my require many hours.  In all cases, you should log and track your time as a successor trustee.  This avoids beneficiary disputes when a beneficiary claims that your trustees fees are excessive.

Call Mina Sirkin, Trusts Attorney Los Angeles at 818.340.4479 or email us at

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