Kirsten Howe Interview on Fading Memories Podcast Blog: What Every Trustee & Beneficiary Needs to Know

Kirsten was thrilled to be a part of Jennifer Fink’s podcast, Fading Memories. Avid Absolute Trust Talk fans may recognize Jennifer from a recent episode where Kirsten and Jen talked about all things Alzheimer’s. This time, Kirsten and Jennifer sat down to get into the nitty-gritty details of trust administration. In the midst of a death, there are seemingly a million tasks to complete to ensure the decedent’s wishes are fulfilled. This process can be overwhelming, especially for a grieving family member who is also the trustee. Kirsten details the nuanced steps a trustee must take, discussing obligations, how to navigate conflicts with co-trustees or beneficiaries, and ensuring all legalities are met. Some questions that Kirsten and Jennifer’s answer include:

  • Where to get started?
  • How to protect yourself as a trustee, especially among feuding family members?
  • What processes and procedures are legally required?

And more!

Trust administration can be a difficult task. There’s no sugar-coating it. And it’s a lot of work. If you feel like you’re in a tornado of paperwork and question marks, you are not alone and don’t have to complete the process alone. We hope this episode will guide you in the right direction, and if you have any questions or want to learn more about our Trust Administration Roadmapping, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Top Takeaways:

  1. A trustee is legally bound to put the beneficiary’s interest before their own.
  2. It’s okay to ask for help, and it’s recommended to meet with an attorney before you administer a trust to make sure you’re on the right path, and legal procedures are completed correctly.
  3. There must always be a paper trail of the money and assets to show what was left after the death – what was spent to actualize the trust and what is left to distribute to the beneficiaries. Transparency is key!

Time-stamped Show Notes:

0:00 Introduction

5:08 In this episode, we will discuss what happens after someone who has a trust in place dies. Listen as Kirsten gives a quick overview.

6:14 If you’re looking for extra resources or want to follow along with Kirsten’s guidebook on trust administration, visit to get a free copy.

07:15 The first step involves many notifications: a trustee must give legal notice to other trustees, heirs, or beneficiaries alongside setting up the death certificate, stopping all of the credit cards, etc.

08:03 Heirs are family members who are, legally, next of kin. Whether in the trust or not, they are still entitled to receive notice of death.

08:56 A lot of the processes in trust administration can be completed without an attorney, but it’s a good idea to consult one at the beginning to ensure you know all the legal action items that need to be completed.

10:02 The next step is to figure out what all the assets are and gain control of them.

11:19 Did you know? If you’re buying a new property and you want to include that property in your trust, you must fill out specific paperwork to make sure it’s included. Listen in as Kirsten and Jennifer discuss the details.

12:05 What would happen if someone dies and their property was not included in their trust? Let’s discuss! (Hint, it may include probate court even though you set the trust up to avoid it. That’s why it’s essential to ensure all of your assets are correctly titled.)

15:35 Once the trust is passed on to the trustee, it’s important to get everything in your name. You must obtain a new taxpayer ID number, and you also have to get the value of everything. Here’s what you need to know.

16:48 As the trust items are being valued, the trustee must also pay off the debts of the decedent. Don’t forget this important step!

17:57 The overarching point here, is your job as trustee is paramount. You are doing what’s in the best interest of all of the beneficiaries, they must come first.

19:19 Does trust administration vary from state to state?

20:15 The trust administration process is similar to the probate process. However, it is a little more convenient as you are not at the mercy of a judge, and you retain a little more privacy.

21:27 Being the trustee can be time-consuming. There are so many things to keep track of in addition to normal life activities like work or taking care of family. This is how things fall through the cracks and why it’s a good idea to consider working with an attorney to hold you accountable.

21:52 As a beneficiary, what can you do in the event of a trustee with bad intentions? How would you handle a situation where your sister is the trustee, your mom died a year ago, and you still haven’t gotten your inheritance?

25:14 Often, trustees get along with each other, and the work can be done relatively quickly. In this event, certain parts of the process may be skipped, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if everyone agrees.

29:45 Going back to our real estate example, the property included in a trust can present many questions: Should we sell it? Should we sit on it? What will the market look like? It’s important to think outside the box with your assets.

35:28 When you are a trustee, you have what we call a “fiduciary duty” to put the interests of the beneficiaries ahead of your own.

36:06 The final piece, after you’ve paid all the bills, is to produce accounting for your beneficiaries. This accounting should detail what came in, what went out, and how much is left.

37:02 Trustees do get paid, however, if you are your family’s sole trustee and beneficiary, you wouldn’t necessarily pay yourself. What would be the point of taking money out of your own inheritance?

39:20 Did you know a professional trustee such as a bank may charge a 1% fee? The family may not have as many lawyer fees because a professional trustee is more knowledgeable about the process, meaning the process may be cheaper.

43:06 Every case is different with varying levels of organization and time.

44:16 Don’t cheat yourself by not talking to a professional. They often know tips and tricks that make the process so much easier.

46:09 Have you heard of our service called “Trust Administration Roadmapping?” We gather all the necessary information and map the trustee’s path to ensure a smooth process. We normally charge $350 for this service, but if listeners call in and mention the podcast, they will receive a complimentary roadmap!

49:25 The roadmap can be extremely useful to ensure the trustee is heading in the right direction and provide clarity to the beneficiaries.

50:42 The important takeaway is that there will be a lot there that you aren’t going to know unless you ask somebody, so ask somebody! It’s okay to get some help, and it’s also okay to tell your siblings to settle down!

Interested in having Kirsten on your show? Send us a message through our contact us page, and we’ll reach out to you to discuss, or feel free to call us at 925.943.2740.

Resources/Links Mentioned in this Episode:

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If you have any questions or need any help, please feel free to contact us by calling 925.943.2740 or sending an email to