Opening/Maintaining the Trusts Estate Accounts
After a trusts assets have been marshaled and a list compiled by the probate paralegal service, decedent’s accounts should be transferred into one or more insured estate accounts. Depending on the size of the trusts estate and the extent of funds held on deposit, a single commercial account might suffice. But accounts exceeding the federally-insured limit should be broken up; and, in any event, several commercial accounts may be necessary for effective management of extremely large estates. Ask your trusts probate administration paralegal service how they normally handle transfer and opening of probate accounts.
A certified copy of the trusts representative’s letters and a bank signature card signed by the representative will be required to transfer the account from decedent’s to the estate’s name. Often the bank will require the trusts probate paralegal to appear in person and may require a certified copy of decedent’s death certificate as well.
Most banks and financial institutions view the trusts letters as becoming “stale” with the passage of time, for example, sixty days after the date of certification. Therefore, be sure the trusts representative’s letters are current before she attempts to use them. New certified copies can be easily obtained by the trusts probate paralegal service from the court clerk through your attorney service at nominal cost.
Non Transferred Forfeitures:
Amounts held in accounts subject to forfeitures or penalties on early withdrawal should not be transferred until it is determined whether transfer of these funds to the estate account will cause such a forfeiture. To prevent a forfeiture, leave the money in the account until the maturity date, when withdrawal and transfer may be effected with full interest.
Amounts held in certificate or term accounts closed following decedent’s death (up to one year thereafter) without risk of forfeiture. Hence, the representative should consider withdrawing and transferring these funds whenever currently available investment alternatives promise a higher yield.
Money belonging to the estate may be transferred or deposited without prior court order into any insured account in a state or federal bank, savings and loan, credit union or like financial institution.
Likewise, absent court order to the contrary, withdrawals may be made without prior court approval as necessary to administer the estate using ordinary care and diligence. Even so, prior court approval may be requested and, indeed, may be advisable under the particular circumstances.
The Trusts Tangible Personal Property
It is very important to conduct a detailed inventory and accounting of the estate, down to the smallest personal items of the decedent. Using a laptop computer is an efficient way to conduct such an inventory or personal items.
Valuable jewelry, coin, stamp, art and other collections, sliver, furs, automobiles, antiques, furniture and furnishings must be itemized, described, safeguarded and insured. All such personal items will have to be appraised–either by the probate referee or, at the representative’s election in the case of unique, artistic, unusual, or special items of tangible personal property, by a qualified independent expert.
Use of safe deposit box
Small items of unique value such as jewelry are best safeguarded in an estate safe deposit box, which may simply be decedent’s box transferred into the estate representative’s name. Other valuable personality should be protected as well.
Distribution in lieu of storage
Many times it may seem preferable to distribute certain personal items to the testate beneficiaries designated to receive them, rather than to incur the costs of storage. This approach is technically permissible [See Probate Code § 9650 (c). However each situation must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For instance, distribution is not advisable if there is any doubt as to who is entitled to the item. Nor is it advisable, at least until the appraisal is completed, if there is a risk that the beneficiary will dispose of, damage or lose the property
Remember that the representative is held to fiduciary standards and is responsible for the estate property pending final accounting and distribution. Thus, at least in regard to unique items and assets of substantial value, the representative is better advised to keep possession and store them in a safe place until they are appraised and a determination can be made that their distribution will not prejudice others, such as creditors possibly interested in the estate.