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Notifying Beneficiaries

General Rules
Special State Requirements

Trustees must always keep trust beneficiaries informed about administration of the trust. This rule is intended to make sure that the beneficiaries have enough information to enforce their legal rights -- for example, to make sure that trust assets aren't being mismanaged.

With a simple probate-avoidance trust, there is usually not much need for communication with beneficiaries. (The successor trustee may be, in fact, the only beneficiary.) The trust exists only long enough for the trustee to gather and distribute the assets.

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General Rules

A successor trustee who thinks beneficiaries of the trust don't know about it should promptly notify them when the grantor dies. A simple letter, telling the beneficiary that the trust has become irrevocable because of the grantor's death, and that the successor trustee is now in charge of trust assets and will distribute them as soon as is practical, will do in most states.

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Special State Requirements

Some states have very specific rules about how and when the successor trustee must notify beneficiaries about the existence of the trust. The notice must include certain information and be formatted in a certain way. By the time your trust becomes irrevocable, it's likely that more states will have adopted this kind of notice requirement. A successor trustee should always check current state law and may want to consult a lawyer.

warning  Resource: Help for California trustees. How to Probate an Estate in California, by Julia Nissley (Nolo), contains a form successor trustees can use to give the required notice.

 

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