I am acting as Trustee for my dear dead Aunt Betsy. One of the Trust assets is her California residence. What are some of my fiduciary duties and what should I be doing with the house?
Dear Little Johnny:
First, as Trustee, you have a general duty to secure the residence and to preserve its value.
Assuming that the house is not passing to a specific beneficiary, after the initial 120 Notice period, you should consider liquidating, selling, the house.
During the initial 120-day period of administration, I suggest that, at a minimum, you do the following:
- Make a detailed inventory of the house content, by photos or video, remove and secure any personal property of substantial value and empty the refrigerator;
- Have a Locksmith change all of the locks and give you the keys;
- Have all mail forwarded to your address and stop any newspaper delivery
- Install an inexpensive security system that will automatically contact the security company if there is a break-in;
- Have the yard regularly maintained, as though someone was living in the residence;
- Talk to the neighbors and leave your telephone number with them in the event of an emergency;
- Install a timer on several lamps, set to go on and off at different times;
- Find the homeowner’s insurance policy and contact the insurance agent to be certain that the coverage is adequate;
- If appropriate, have a plumber “winterize” the house;
- Timely pay the monthly utility bills and loan payment as well as any homeowner’s association fees or at least contact the vendors to explain the circumstance.
- Obtain legal advice from an attorney experienced in the area of trust administration.
I hope that you find this advice helpful and good luck in your capacity as Trustee.