The trustee of a trust — that is, the person or entity in Oklahoma that holds legal title to the trust assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries and carries out their duties per the language of the trust — has an important role. This is because the trustee is a fiduciary, with all the responsibilities that come with it.
One role of the trustee is to manage the property of the estate. The trustee will need to secure all of the property of the estate and obtain a valuation. Depending on the situation, there are some formalities that go along with taking control of certain assets, for example, brokerage accounts. Such formalities may include procuring formal authorization from the court and verifying proof of death with the court through a death certificate. Sometimes a claim needs to be filed for the trustee to take control of certain types of property, such as insurance policies. Personal property such as motor vehicles, collections and other tangible property may be formally appraised by a professional.
The trustee must also handle any bills that have yet to be paid after the creator of the trust passes on. These bills either must be paid, or the creditors must receive notification that payment will be delayed for a period of time. Prompt payment is important — the failure to pay certain bills can have a negative effect on the estate.
The trustee must also file the appropriate tax returns. For example, income tax may have to be paid for the year in which the creator of the trust died. In addition, it is important for the trustee to ascertain whether any prior year’s tax returns have or have not been filed, and to file them accordingly. Depending on the circumstances, some estates may be subject to the federal estate tax.
These are only some duties of a trustee. It is important for trustees to work carefully through their tasks, so they do not make any mistakes that could delay or complicate the trust administration process. This post only gives a brief overview of the role of the trustee, and cannot provide legal advice. Oklahomans who have been appointed as trustees may want to carry out their duties with the help of an attorney.
Source: American Bar Association, “Guidelines for Individual Trustees & Executors,” Accessed Sept. 20, 2015