Trust Administration: mix in the upsetting event of suffering the loss of a loved one with having to handle the multitude of details of settling their final affairs. The last thing anyone wants to do is fight with family members, creditors, the IRS, business partners, or even the judge. For a novice, navigating the wilderness of a trust or probate estate from beginning to end can be a daunting task, fraught with traps for the unwary. As seasoned professionals, we can be there to help see to it that the estate passes smoothly into the right hands, no matter the size of the estate. Also, we keep our eyes on the ball when it comes to tax avoidance and tax minimization in the process so that the maximum amount of wealth is passed to the heirs as is possible under the law.
Trust Administration involves overseeing the assets held within a trust. A trust is a form of legal ownership in which an ownership interest in real or personal property is split between the legal owner (the Trustee) and the equitable owner (the beneficiary). Trusts are commonly created as an estate planning tool, and the Trust Administrator then oversees the distribution of assets within the trust according to the wishes of its creator. There are many different types of trusts, depending on the goals of the person or married couple creating a trust.
There are a number of aspects to owning property. Mainly, property ownership involves the right of possession, the right of use, the right to transfer or sell property and the right to convey the property to heirs upon death via a will. When a trust is created, the ownership of the property is put into the trust, which is a legal entity. The beneficiary of the trust is then vested with limited rights according to the terms of the trust; the beneficiary may have the right to use items within the trust but not to sell them or transfer them, or may have limited usage rights and restrictions on what he may do with the assets in the trust.
When a trust is created, in addition to naming the beneficiary or the person who is entitled to use the trust assets, a Trustee must also be named. That Trustee is responsible for Trust Administration. This means he is responsible for protecting the assets in the trust and ensuring they are used according to the wishes of the individual who established the trust. Further, Successor Trustees (replacing the prior trustee who can no longer serve, for whatever reason) and, sometimes, Trust Protectors (someone who can protect the trust when unforeseen problems occur in the future) should be named.
This sensitive, important planning can be accomplished through various methods including Wills, Revocable Living Trusts, Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts, Children's Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, Generation-Skipping Trusts, Family Limited Partnerships, Charitable Remainder Trusts, Charitable Lead Trusts, and other types of charitable trusts, as well as other estate planning vehicles and techniques including non-probate assets (i.e., insurance, IRAs, pension plans and jointly held property). The complexities associated with Trust Administration or probate can be enormous, but with our trust and estate planning experience, we can effectively and efficiently handle any probate or Trust Administration that may arise.
The duties involved in Trust Administration vary, depending on the nature of the trust created. It is common, for example, for a person to create a trust in which money is left to a child and then distributed to that child to pay educational expenses or when the child reaches a certain age. In such a situation, the trust administration duties involve ensuring that the assets are protected until the child reaches maturity and/or ensuring the money in the trust is used only for qualified expenses.
One type of common trust, frequently used in Florida to avoid probate, is the Revocable Living Trust. Even after the trust creator(s) dies, there are specific steps to be followed that are required by the State of Florida. Many of the duties required under probate are still required in a Living Trust situation, just without court supervision: documents need to be filed in the public records; beneficiaries need to be contacted; assets must be gathered, valued and managed; creditors, final expenses and taxes need to be paid; property needs to be managed until it is paid out to beneficiaries pursuant to the trust terms, and accountings to beneficiaries still need to be made.
Successor Trustees often lack the time, resources or knowledge to personally administer the trust, and therefore may call upon legal, accounting and investment professionals for assistance. Oftentimes, a corporate fiduciary (e.g., a trust company or lawyer) is an excellent alternative to relying solely on busy family members or friends to serve as trustee. We can help your Successor Trustee(s) deal with the complexities of administering your trust. We have also served as a trust fiduciary (Successor Trustee) many times over the last two plus decades.
While representing individuals, businesses, charities, or families, our trust and estate planning attorneys carefully plan and administer in a manner that is advantageous for tax purposes. Rest assured that all legal tax minimization or avoidance techniques will be pursued. We have helped many Personal Representatives and Trustees avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxes in the last few years.
Many Successor Trustees have found the process to be much shorter and less stressful when someone experienced in this field assists with the settlement process. The Estate Planning & Elder Law Center of Brevard has years of experience working with Successor Trustees to streamline this process. We have personally assisted over 1500 Trustees in the Trust Administration process and have served as Trustee and Personal Representative in dozens of Trust and Probate Administrations. We thoroughly understand the process from start to finish and are willing to help, no matter the size of the estate.
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