This is a common concern people have when they learn they have been named as a successor trustee, says nwi.com in the article “Estate Planning: The role of a successor trustee.” The first thing to do? Verify that you are a successor trustee and what authority and powers you have. If the trustmaker is disabled, rather than deceased, you’ll need to be sure that you have complied with any requirements to take the position.
You will likely find details of what you must obtain to assume the authority of a successor trustee in the trust itself. For example, you may need to have a letter from a physician stating that the trustmaker is incapacitated and can no longer manage his own affairs. If the trustmaker is deceased, establishing your authority is easier. Usually, all you’ll need is a death certificate.
Once this has been established, you’ll need to be able to prove that you have this role. Usually this is done through the use of an Affidavit of Trust and may include an Acceptance and Oath. An estate planning attorney will be able to help you with these documents. Some affidavits affirm under the “pain and penalty of perjury that the affiant is the successor trustee” and that you are accepting the designation and agree to serve under the terms of the trust and the laws of your state.
Different estate planning attorneys may approach this differently. Some may use a “certificate of trust,” while others will simply rely on the trust agreement. The important thing is that your authority is demonstrable.
Once the successor trustee has established that they are appointed properly, they can start administering the trust.
What about selling the family home? Real estate transfers are handled through the local government. To sell a home, you’ll need to transfer the deed, so you will need the deed to the home.
When a successor trustee transfers real estate, a copy of the affidavit of his appointment as the successor trustee and relevant documents could be recorded with the transfer documents. The transfer needs to be approved by a title examiner, and the examiner will want proof that the person in charge of the transaction has the legal authority to do so.
Other assets are transferred in a similar fashion. The asset holder is contacted, a copy of the affidavit and proof of designation as a successor trustee will be needed.
Some estate planning attorneys will add a letter of instruction to the successor trustee providing them with helpful information and tips about estate administration.
Reference: nwi.com (Jan. 12, 2020) “Estate Planning: The role of a successor trustee”