MoneyDo: Estate & Trust Administration


Few people have extensive experience settling the final affairs for a loved one, as you may only find yourself in that situation once or twice in a lifetime. Perhaps with a parent or a spouse, which means we are often wondering exactly what needs to happen to get things in order.

It is important to remember to rely on others for guidance and help during the process, rather than trying to go it alone. Start by notifying friends and family to coordinate funeral arrangements. Dealing with the financial matters immediately after a loved one passes is not as critical as many people think, as very little can be done until a death certificate is issued.

Once things have calmed after the funeral and you receive death certificates, start by gathering all the estate planning documents that exist and locating or creating an inventory of the individual’s assets and liabilities that includes joint owners and beneficiary information. You can also start contacting the various financial institutions.

As you review asset and account information, you may find that a trustee or executor is required to execute transactions or give direction to various financial institutions. If so, you will likely want to engage an attorney to help with proper documentation for the trust or initiate a probate proceeding. This is often the step people skip to keep expenses down; however, engaging an attorney will likely accelerate the process and make things go much more smoothly.

There will be various tax returns required during the process, so keeping accurate records is important. Prior to making distributions to beneficiaries, it’s important to determine the extent of any liabilities, taxes, and additional administration expenses that must be paid first.

While all these items are important from a process standpoint, the most critical element is to have frequent communication with all beneficiaries throughout the process to keep them informed as to status and timing along the way. 

The process of settling an individual’s final affairs will take anywhere from 6-18 months to complete depending on wealth, complexity and family dynamics. Remember to be patient and not to rush into any decisions that you may regret later.

At Annex we have an extensive guide for trustees and executors available to help our clients in these situations. Please reach out to your wealth manager if you have questions or would like a full copy of the guide.