Successor Trustee Checklist- Pre-Funeral

We strongly suggest all trustees and family executors have a test run with the grantors to make sure, upon the grantor’s death, the surviving spouse and children don’t find themselves in an estate planning mess. This is a brief checklist of those items that we find helpful to families.  We have broken down the list into 3 groups: Pre-funeral, Funeral, and Post Funeral.   Here are a few items to review:

  • Locate and review all of the grantor's estate planning documents. Typical estate plans include the Trust agreement (sometimes called Declaration of Trust), the Pour-Over Will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Directives and Living Will.  It is important to know that when the grantor passes away, the Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive and Living Will are no longer valid. 
  • Review the Trust Agreement to confirm the Successor Trustee,
  • Confirm and understand the plan of distribution the grantor wanted. 
  • Make a list of the beneficiaries with their names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, age and social security numbers.
  • Make a list of the grantor’s key advisors, with telephone #’s, addresses, and any account numbers they may be managing. 
  • Advisor should include their trust attorney, their financial and/or wealth advisor, and their CPA.
  • Obtain taxpayer identification number for trust.

What to expect upon the death of the Trust’s Grantor:

As the Successor Trustee, you will need to prove your authority to act as Trustee upon the death of the grantor. The banks, brokerage firms and other third parties will not give you information or allow you to transact business on behalf of the trust until they have THEIR required documents. We suggest you get this process started now, while the grantor is alive to help move the process smoothly upon their death. Typical Documents include:

  • You should consider being co-signing on all safe deposit boxes, bank and investment accounts NOW!
  • Know where to find the original signed trust agreement and all amendments to it. 
  • Acceptance of Trustee Form. By this document, you accept the appointment of Trustee of the trust and agree to perform all of the duties of the Trustee pursuant to the Trust Agreement and the law.
  • Any other documents required by the provisions of the Trust Agreement
  • You will need at least 10 Death certificates of the grantor.
  • You will need a complete list of Assets and Liabilities of the trust
  • You will need to file tax returns and other regulatory filings
  • If the Grantor’s body can’t be found or proven dead, there will be a very long wait period for filing claims and other death benefits
  • The family will need to develop a list of relatives with telephone #’s to call upon grantor’s death, and find out which calls the spouse will make for themselves.  Obituaries need to correctly spell each family member’s name and relation to grantor.