Upon the death of a loved one, the mourning, the need to handle the immediate needs of the family from arranging for the funeral to making sure the mortgage is paid, preoccupy the family and usually those named in the Trust or Will as trustees or executors. This is almost always perfectly fine since there is usually no need to file documents with the court immediately and those legal requirements can wait for some time to pass while the initial shock fades.
But there are time limits on the initial steps that need to be taken and the initial steps involving the beneficiaries are to file the Will and notify them as required by statute.
Filing a copy of the Will
Within 30 days after a person dies, the person who has the decedent's will must file it with the superior court of the county in which the decedent lived. Probate Code section 8200(a)(1). To do this, you will need to take the original will to the probate court clerk’s office and file it there.
After filing the will with the court, a copy of the will must be sent to the person named in the will as the executor. Probate Code section 8200(a)(2).
Notification of the Trust Beneficiaries
Upon the death of the settlor, the trustee must notify the following people of the trust:
(1) Each beneficiary of the irrevocable trust or irrevocable portion of the trust, subject to the limitations of Section 15804.
(2) Each heir of the deceased settlor, if the event that requires notification is the death of a settlor or irrevocability within one year of the death of the
settlor of the trust by the express terms of the trust because of a contingency related to the death of a settlor.
(3) If the trust is a charitable trust subject to the supervision of the Attorney General, to the Attorney General.
Probate Code section 16061.7(b).
The trustee does not have a duty to notify (1) other heirs that are known to the trustee but cannot be located “after reasonable diligence” or (2) heirs who are unknown to the trustee.
The notification shall be served by mail to the last known address or by personal delivery. Service of the notice must be within 60 days after the settlor’s death.
The notification shall contain the following information:
(1) The identity of the settlor or settlors of the trust and the date of execution of the trust instrument.
(2) The name, mailing address and telephone number of each trustee of the trust.
(3) The address of the physical location where the principal place of administration of the trust is located, pursuant to Section 17002.
(4) Any additional information that may be expressly required by the terms of the trust instrument.
(5) A notification that the recipient is entitled, upon reasonable request to the trustee, to receive from the trustee a true and complete copy of
the terms of the trust.
Probate Code section 16061.7(g).
In addition, the notice must contain the following in not less than 10-point boldface type:
"You may not bring an action to contest the trust more than 120 days from the date this notification by the trustee is served upon you or 60 days from the date on which a copy of the terms of the trust is mailed or personally delivered to you during that 120-day period, whichever is later."
Probate Code section 16061.7(h).
Remarkably often Wills and Trusts are entirely ignored, especially by surviving spouses who are befuddled by the needs arising within the family when someone dies and we have encountered situations where transfer to property in Trusts was completely ignored. This requires a great deal of work for the eventual heirs to go back years and do what should have been done previously.
It is at times tedious and at times time consuming, but it is required by law and is best if done promptly. And the first steps…are outlined above.