You’re Never Alone in Trust Administration with Our Attorneys
If you’ve been appointed successor trustee for a friend or family member, the responsibility can feel enormous. After the death or incapacity of the initial grantor — the person who created the trust and who is often the initial trustee— a successor trustee must take over to administer the trust, much like the executor of a will named by a last will and testament. However, unlike a simple will, a trust allows property and assets to avoid aspects of probate, as well as making distribution of those assets to beneficiaries faster and easier. Sounds simple, right? Yet when faced with trust administration, the paperwork and requirements can be overwhelming. This is where trust administration attorneys, like the experienced team at Dyer, Bregman & Ferris, PLLC, come into the picture.
Successor trustees, like an executor of a will, take care of several crucial tasks when the initial trustee dies — they evaluate the assets within the trust, use the trust funds to pay debts and settle accounts, and then distribute the remaining assets and property to the beneficiaries named in the trust. While a will has to go through probate to be verified as legitimate, a trust does not, allowing the successor trustee and trust administration attorney to immediately get to work on finalizing the deceased’s affairs as they relate to the trust. An additional convenience is that, by not involving the courts, trust administration keeps matters private, rather than a part of Arizona court record.
What Does a Successor Trustee Do?
If you’ve been named a successor trustee in Arizona, your first step is to prove you actually have the authority to administer the trust. This includes providing any necessary affidavits and supporting documents, such as a death certificate that shows the initial trustee is deceased. This verification prevents anyone from disputing your authority and allows for a peaceful transition of power over the trust. Conversely, the executor of a will must wait for the probate court to approve the will, a more time-consuming and public process.
Once your position has been verified, you must take stock of what is in the trust. This involves taking inventory of all assets and property. Trustees are entrusted with a fiduciary duty of care, which means they are required to act to the benefit of the trust and its beneficiaries. Your work in assessing and administering the trust will therefore be under heavy scrutiny to ensure you’re using the money and assets for the proper purpose. An attorney can explain your duties, guiding you through inventory, getting the necessary appraisals of value, and helping you keep an accounting of your actions.
After the value of the trust has been determined, a successor trustee must settle debts and pay taxes first. And as everyone knows, both seem designed to make any job a chore. A trust administration lawyer can take the burden off of you in these matters, working with your tax professional to assure the correct tax forms are completed and any taxes paid. And if you do not have a trusted tax professional, a trust administration attorney can help you find one.
Once the debts and taxes are paid, the beneficiaries can start receiving assets from the trust according to the terms in the trust document. While these steps sound time-consuming, the process is more expedient than taking an estate through probate.
What Can Go Wrong?
No family matter involving money and property is without risk of conflict, and trust administration is no exception. One common concern with trust administration involves improper use of the funds or assets by the successor trustee. Family members who suspect a trustee is not fulfilling his or her fiduciary duty of care will need to consult a trust lawyer to investigate and potentially file a suit. Likewise, successor trustees might face objections to the trust distribution and find themselves in the middle of a heated debate among the beneficiaries. This could also require specific legal counsel.
The attorneys at Dyer, Bregman & Ferris are skilled in trust administration litigation, but will also work diligently to resolve conflict outside of court. We know the ins and outs of Arizona trust law, and proudly serve Arizona residents during this time of grief and turmoil to safeguard the trust’s funds, the initial grantor’s legacy, and the beneficiaries’ rights to the assets. We want everyone to come out of the trust administration process satisfied, having saved time, money, and heartache and preserving privacy by the proper administration of a Trust.