AFTER DEATH... Estate Issues
The next few months were spent dealing with estate issues. Dad had created a list of account numbers and phone numbers for insurance companies, bank accounts, stock portfolios, VA, Navy Retirement, Social Security, etc. I had taken his list and updated it with more recent information since I was managing his finances once Mom had died. After the funeral, I contacted each agency to see what their requirements were. Some wanted just a photocopy or fax copy of his death certificate and a photocopy of the trust short form showing me as successor trustee. Others wanted an original of the death certificate, an original of Mom's death certificate, a complete copy of the trust document, and an affidavit from a public notary that I was who I said I was. Others wanted some documentation somewhere between the two extremes. The crazy thing is that the amount of required proof documents were usually inversely proportionate to the amount of money involved.
The way the living trust was written, I was to liquidate all assets and distribute the money to each of the children. I created a special trust checking account at my bank to help expedite the collection and distribution of the trust monies. The only thing that might take more than a month or two to liquidate was my parents' condominium. We would have sold it a few years earlier but the real estate market was at a low ebb. After consulting with the estate attorney, we elected to just leave it empty (or rent it out) until both my parents had died. Now that they were both gone, I was required to sell it no matter what the market was doing. I contracted a real estate agent to list and show it. To our surprise and delight, it sold within a week for more than we listed it for. Obviously the market had improved. (joemontage8.jpg here)
Distributing To Beneficiaries
Once the condo closed escrow, I distributed most of the money to the three beneficiaries. However, I held some back in the trust account to cover any residual taxes and expenses with the idea of distributing the remaining money a year later. For some reason, I was under the impression that there would be no capital gains tax
on the sale of the condo, since my parents were deceased. Turns out that we owed taxes on the capital gains earned between the date my mother died and the date the condo was sold. I'm glad I found that out before I distributed all the money. My advice to anyone reading this is to ask a lot of
questions when you consult with estate lawyers and accountants. They don't always remember to tell you everything. And sometimes the rules change overnight. You, as trustee, are responsible to see that no stone is left unturned.