I and a close friend are co-trustees of an irrevocable trust set up by my mom's husband (my stepfather) who predeceased her by 20 yrs. My mother, who died this spring, was the income beneficiary and had the use of the home and whatever income she needed from the financial investments. The ultimate beneficiaries are his three children, now in their 60s and 70s and living out of state. My mom drew modestly for her living expenses, and the value of the trust increased over the years. The trust now holds a house valued at about $400k and $ being managed by a professional financial person of about $700K. There are no other assets.
The trust allows wide latitude for whatever decisions the trustees deem best, including transfer and sale of real estate. Had my mother lived longer, the trust would have allowed sale of the house and/or complete spending of all the financial investments to fund her care. As soon as my mom passed, I tried to do everything I could to expedite the closing of the trust and transfer of assets to heirs. This included immediate notification to the heirs of her passing, and the amount the invested funds were worth at that date, and meeting within 2 weeks with an estate attorney.
The estate attorney, whom I had no prior connection with, was recommended by the financial planner, whom I trusted and had been responsible and responsive to my mom over the years. The estate attorney seemed experienced and talked like he could handle everything smoothly so I signed a contract (hourly rate basis) and paid him a retainer from the trust funds. Unfortunately since then (three full months) attorney seems to have had many other commitments like trials and an unexpected surgery and it seems like not a lot, if anything, has been done on the trust estate settlement.
Though I've asked repeatedly and in many different ways, I've gotten no response to "What has been done?" For just one example, a month and a half ago he said he had contacted an appraiser to appraise house, and that she would contact me directly for access. When I got no contact for 2 weeks and asked him why, he said she was on vacation. A month later I still have no contact, and no answer to my messages/emails re this.
Meanwhile one of the heirs who is a bit pushy by nature, and frustrated with (lack of) progress, engaged an atty on behalf of the siblings (whom the attorney I hired has acknowledged by letter but not spoken with), sent his own appraiser to the house, emailed me he'd like to plan a "yard sale" of house contents....
At this point, I just want to minimize and/or finish up my role as trustee. I really don't want to be responsible for the upkeep of a vacant house, or finding/overseeing suitable tenants. I or the co-trustee have never charged any trustee fees, I didn't benefit from handling my mom's affairs prior to her death, (other than mental satisfaction of trying to do the best for her) and I consider that my step siblings were always gracious during the long period my mom outlived their dad. I feel they deserve timely access to the estate assets now that there is no need to be prudent re anticipated "worst case" mom care needs.
My question is can I sign over the house deed (it's in the name of the trust) to the heirs now, and/or a considerable portion of the financial investments before probate is finished? My mom had no unpaid bills. I guess my secondary question would be - how much updating should I reasonably expect from attorney re steps taken re estate settlement - and if I don't get any satisfaction, what do I do then?