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I was named as trustee

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What is the name of your state? Florida

Several weeks ago, a distant relative passed away. I was the only remaining family member and really had no idea that he even knew me.Anyhow, I was left as trustee of his trust. I contacted the lawyer and told him who I was and he asked me if I knew where the assets were held. I had no idea. I know he was well off and had stocks and bonds and such, but I have no idea where those assets would be. I am wondering if it is odd that the lawyer does not already have this information. Will it be difficult for the lawyer to discover the whereabouts of the assets and how long does this type thing usually take. I admit it, Im being impatient, but being a single mother struggling to make ends meet, this could be a Godsend for me and my children. Thank you for your time.

Dandy Don

Senior Member
Who informed you that you were trustee, or how did you find out that information?

How are you related to the decedent, and does he have any other surviving relatives (wife, children, etc.)?

What is the estimated value of his estate?

Is the lawyer (you spoke with) the executor of the estate or just the man's personal attorney?

Where do you live, and if I understand you correctly, the death occurred in Florida, or where did the decedent live and die?

If the lawyer is executor, then he probably knows more about the man's assets than he is letting on. You should ask him directly for a copy of the trust document, the name of the bank where the trust account is being held and if a will exists. Many people who prepare a trust usually will put the most valuable assets into the trust so that they don't need to prepare a will, but sometimes there is also a will to be probated.

If this attorney will not give you information, then if you can afford to pay a private investigator $100-$200 to do a financial background check on the decedent, that will go a long way towards getting information about where he did his banking, possibly who his stockbroker is, etc. However, I do feel that this attorney/executor is going to be cooperative with you if you let him know that you need his help/cooperation in getting the trust/estate affairs handled properly. I am even guessing that the lawyer probably already knows the extent of the assets and was just testing you to see how much you knew or didn't know, but it is also possible that the case was new to him and he was trying to uncover this information for himself.

If you need guidance on how to manage the trust, then as soon as you find out the name of the bank where the trust is being held, then you can ask for professional assistance from an accountant/employee of the bank's trust department to help guide you through the process. You will probably get a fee for being trustee, but if you don't have the time to devote to this task or if it would be too inconvenient for you to travel to Florida to take care of it, then you should consider declining your position as trustee so that the secondary trustee (who is probably named in the trust) can perform the duties. However, I feel that you still need to get a copy of the trust so you can be aware of the extent of assets involved and whether you are named as a beneficiary of it (you probably will be), and you will also need to find out if you are named a beneficiary in the will.

Just be patient and you will eventually get all of the information you need regarding this estate. Don't be overwhelmed--just take things one day at a time!


DANDY DON ([email protected])


Senior Member
Be very wary of people offering to help you in this situation. If you just turn this over to the wrong attorney, you will pay a small fortune. Learn as much as you can about the situation. A day on the phone checking out accounts etc. will save you about $150./ hr.(plus) of attorney's fees. You could probably save a year of your working salary by doing most of this yourself. My last situation, an attorney charged $26,000.00 just to distribute an all cash trust that he set up. Unfortunately, I didn't know then what I know now. It isn't that difficult to do much of the work yourself and get hourly advice from an attorney and accountant. Just don't turn it over to them and say "you do it", unless you are OK about giving away a ton of money unnecessarily. It can be very interesting. If you are not in line to receive a substantial amount as an heir, perhaps you should do as previously advised and let the secondary trustee take the job.

Dandy Don

Senior Member
When you contact the attorney who first contacted you, ask him if he has access to the decedent's home in order to search for personal papers, checkbooks, etc. or if he knows who does have access to the home. Whoever would visit the home might find out some valuable clues.

Only hire the private investigator as a last resort if you can't get information any other way. I forgot to mention that you can get reimbursement from the estate or trust on whatever the private investigator's bill is.


Dandy Don

Senior Member
Concentrate on trying to get as much information as you can about the trust.

If the trust is relatively substantial, say over $100,000 or more, you will be able to collect a nice-sized fee for serving as trustee, and there may even be a provision in there where you could make withdrawals for allowable expenses, such as if you needed to pay for travel and/or hotel expenses for going back to the city where the decedent lived to take care of the trust matters, or you could consider having the trust fund account moved to the city where you live in order to manage it better. You at least need to find out how much the trust is worth and read through the trust document to see what it requires before you decide whether or not you want to take on the responsibility of trustee. I think you CAN do it, but you can always ask for assistance from the trust department if you need it.

Even though the estate attorney may be willing to advise you on basic matters regarding this situation, you can't take everything he says at face value because he may have other unknown motivations (maybe he doesn't want you to be trustee or maybe he doesn't want to be totally forthcoming to you about revealing the entire estate value), etc. You can basically believe and trust him unless he gives you reason to believe otherwise, but you should also consider sometimes getting a second opinion from another adviser when it comes to legal matters.

DANDY DON ([email protected])

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