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A loved one passed away and has a Trust or Estate Plan – Now What?


Death is something that each of us must confront; however, when it comes to the death of a loved one, it can be especially hard to know what to do. Here is some general guidance on what you might consider doing after someone dies with a trust in Nevada. It’s important to consult with an attorney who specializes in estate planning and probate matters to ensure you’re following the correct legal procedures. That being said, here are some steps you might want to consider:

1) Notify the relevant parties: Contact the necessary individuals, such as family members, beneficiaries, and the trustee, to inform them of the death. How will you know who these people are? It is best to locate any estate planning documents you can, which will outline the persons listed above.

2) Obtain the death certificate: Acquire certified copies of the death certificate from the appropriate authorities. You may need multiple copies as you navigate the various legal and administrative processes. This can take time. During the COVID pandemic, it took my family over 120 days to obtain this document, which did cause delays. The coroner’s office in Nevada will issue a “Report of Death;” however, some institutions like banks or cell phone companies may cause issues with this. If they do, speak to a manager.

3) Get the mail: Although times are a bit different these days and most people get important mailings via email, the physical USPS post is still a good place to start with trying to figure out a person’s debtors and ongoing bills. If you can get into the deceased email account that will also be a source of information that will most likely be necessary to begin the process. If you are not the successor Trustee, you may need to defer to the successor Trustee before taking this action.

4) Locate the trust document: Locate the original trust document, which outlines the terms and instructions of the trust. The document may be held by the trustee or the deceased individual’s attorney. It is wise to speak to your family members BEFORE any issues or emergencies and know where these documents may be kept, or better, have a copy for yourself.

5) Identify the trustee: Determine who the designated trustee is, as they will be responsible for managing the trust’s assets, distributing them according to the terms of the trust and working with the experts or attorney(s) .

6) Keep the deceased’s cell phone on: For a least a little while (30-90 days) after death, it may be wise to leave the deceased cell phone on, so long as you have access to it. Many times companies will reset passwords by sending text message confirmations to the person’s cell phone. It may make sense for your family member to jot down their pass codes in a place that the successor Trustee has access to after death or incapacity.

7) Contact an attorney: Engage the services of an attorney experienced in probate and trust administration in Nevada. They can guide you through the legal processes, explain your rights and responsibilities as a trustee or beneficiary, and help ensure compliance with Nevada law.

8) Inventory trust assets: The Trustee may need to work with the attorney to identify and inventory all assets held within the trust. This may include bank accounts, investments, real estate, vehicles, and personal belongings.

9) Appraise assets: Obtain professional appraisals for any assets requiring valuation, such as real estate or valuable items, to establish their fair market value.

10) Determine the legally enforceable debts and taxes: Before an estate is required to pay off the last medical expenses, debts, and taxes of the decedent, a 90-day creditor notice will need to be issued to all known creditors and published in a local newspaper for three weeks for all unknown creditors. The timing begins from the date of the first publication. After 90 days have expired, the Trustee will have all the debts that need to be paid, which will then be paid before the estate can be divided among the beneficiaries.

11) ADVISE SOCIAL SECURITY: If your loved one was receiving Social Security it is very important to advise the office immediately after the death of the payee.

The specific steps and requirements outlined above may vary depending on the circumstances, the terms of the trust, the events of death, and Nevada laws enacted at the time of death. It’s essential to seek legal advice from a qualified professional to ensure you’re following the correct procedures and fulfilling your obligations as a trustee or beneficiary.

By Travis Clark, Esq.

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