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After the creator of a trust dies, it sometimes happens that there is trust property but no living trustee. Or, perhaps, the creator of the trust has died and there is still trust property but the present trustee expects the trust to last longer than he or she can serve and the trust failed to provide for a younger, successor trustee.
In such cases the answer is to petition the Probate Court to appoint a new successor trustee. All potential beneficiaries of the trust must be mailed notice of a hearing to appoint a new trustee. If no one objects, the Court will almost always appoint the proposed new trustee.
Sometimes property is in the name of a trust and there are some successor trustees listed but none can be located. It is not known whether they are alive or dead. (The Social Security Administration will tell anyone who asks if a person is known to be dead by the Social Security Administration, if they are told the person's social security number.) However, usually successor trustees in a trust are not identified with social security numbers.) In this situation it is necessary to hire a private investigator to make a diligent effort to locate the successor trustee(s). If the successor trustee(s) cannot be located after a diligent effort, the answer is to ask the Probate Court to approve a new trustee for the trust, after showing the Probate Court the unsuccessful efforts to locate the successor trustee(s) and giving all potential beneficiaries an opportunity to appear in court and contest the proposed appointment.
Most trusts are revocable trusts. As long as the creator of the revocable trust is still alive, the creator can always write an amendment naming additional successor trustee without having to get a court involved. In fact, many revocable trusts are created by a husband and wife and even after one of them has died, the survivor can write an amendment naming additional successor trustees or removing an existing successor trustee. This page was written to deal with the situation in which no creator of the trust is alive to do an amendment.
The total costs of filing a Petition to ask the Court to appoint a new trustee are these:
- Filing fee, if applicable,
- $70 cost to publish notice of the hearing--this is the fee in Clark County; it is different in other counties,
- Investigation fee, if applicable,
- Mailing costs--depends on the number of potential beneficiaries, and
- Attorney Fee--our fees start at $1,000 and we can limit it to this fee in many case--call for details.