June 2, 2016
Liza: I live in California and my dad passed away recently. I am the executor of his living trust. His estate is around $500K. Do I need an attorney to handle his trust? Can I do it? Or can a paralegal take care of this? I do not know where to start. I am overwhelmed. Any guidance is greatly appreciated. I’m sorry about your Dad. Grief is just hard, even without the legal headaches. So, here’s a short answer: First, you don’t have to hire an attorney, but it might be helpful and you can use the trust’s assets to pay for that time. Many trust administration attorneys would meet with you for an hour or two to help you feel more oriented and less overwhelmed. Second, you might find a book that I co-wrote helpful (shameless self-promotion alert) since we wrote it, basically, for you: The Trustee’s Legal Companion is a step by step guide to administering a trust on your own. Third, the basic things you will need to do are send out a notice to all the heirs and beneficiaries, inventory the trust’s assets, pay all of the debts and taxes, and, when all that’s done, you can distribute the assets to the beneficiaries of the trust.