My parent died and named me trustee. What do I do next?

The most important thing to know is that, unless there is an emergency trust task requiring immediate action, you have time to focus on grieving your parent before you have to worry about trust administration tasks.  As a practical matter in California, you will not be able to do much trust work until you have received the death certificates (order at least 10 certified copies), and it has been at least 40 days since your mom or dad passed. 

After ordering the death certificates, your first tasks will involve initial notifications and getting organized so you can gather as much information about what the trust owned and what it owed. The trustee will work with the executor to find the will and deposit it with the proper probate court.  The trustee will notify interested governmental agencies, including the Social Security Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, and others as required, and will get a taxpayer identification number for the trust. 

The trustee will next give notice to the trust beneficiaries, with the information required by the California Probate Code.  Other tasks include paying debts and may include property appraisals, reviewing investments, filing tax returns, and transferring property. If the trust property will be distributed quickly, then the trustee’s tasks will primarily involve gathering and protecting all trust property and completing the property transfers. 

If the trust will be ongoing, because there are minor children or continuing business operations for example, the trustee will have additional and ongoing tasks. The trustee must communicate with beneficiaries and provide them a trust accounting as required by the trust documents, at least once a year.