Trust Administration Lawyer in Worcester Helping Trustees Fulfill their Obligations
A common estate planning tool is a trust. There are many different kinds of trusts, but, put simply, a trust holds assets to be distributed to beneficiaries according to the specific terms of the trust. The grantor—the person who sets up the trust—names a trustee whose responsibility it is to administer the trust. There are several duties that the trustee is obligated to perform, and it can be complicated for a layperson both to do these duties and to be sure that they are doing them correctly as required by law. Many trustees lack the experience or the legal and financial knowledge to complete their tasks confidently. It is common for a trustee to seek the assistance of a trust administration attorney, who can make sure that all responsibilities are met, and that all is done in accordance with the laws governing trusts and financial transactions.
If you have questions or concerns about serving as a trustee or need help in administering a trust, call our experienced Worcester legacy planning lawyer today at (508) 571-5452 for a consultation
What Are the Duties of a Trustee in Administering a Trust?
There are many responsibilities that you have taken on by agreeing to serve as a trustee. The trustee serves as the legal owner of the assets of the trust and, therefore, manages and distributes those assets and ensures that tax or other financial obligations are met. Some of the duties and responsibilities of a trustee include:
- Confirming Key Elements: Once you take over as trustee, you must confirm that all past records have been properly completed, that you know who the beneficiaries are, and that the terms of the trust are clear to you and that the assets are safe and in your control.
- Investing and Managing Trust Assets: It is the trustee’s responsibility, in some cases, to invest the assets of a trust in order to ensure that the assets remain protected and productive for current and future beneficiaries.
- Administering the Trust According to its Terms: The trustee must administer the trust, which usually involves distributing assets to beneficiaries according to the terms laid out in the trust.
- Making Decisions: In some cases, the trust grants the trustee authority to decide when and in what amounts and beneficiaries may receive payments or even whether they receive payments at all.
- Keeping Records: The trustee must prepare and file any and all required records of the trust and must keep all records on file.
- Preparing and Filing Taxes: All taxes must be prepared and filed by the trustee, and the trustee must make any tax-related decisions that arise concerning the trust.
- Communicating with Beneficiaries: The trustee must maintain regular contact with beneficiaries, including providing statements and tax documents.
- Answering Beneficiaries’ Questions: Beneficiaries turn to the trustee to answer any questions they have about the trust or its administration.
- Acting in the Best Interest of the Beneficiary: This is perhaps the most important responsibility of the trustee. All actions and decisions made must be for the benefit of the beneficiaries. If this is not true, the trustee will be held legally accountable for mismanaging the trust.
What if I Don’t Want to be the Trustee?
If the grantor of the trust chooses you to be the trustee, it best honors their wishes if you fulfill that role. You don’t have to do it alone; skilled and knowledgeable trust administration attorneys at the Law Office of Polly Tatum can help you learn about your responsibilities, guide you through their fulfillment, and answer any questions you have along the way. If this still is not enough and you do not want to serve as trustee, the trust will include a successor trustee to whom the role will pass if you decline.
What Happens if a Trustee Makes a Mistake?
While a trustee is not expected to have all of the knowledge an experienced trust lawyer would have, they are expected to properly execute the required duties of the trust. If they do not, the trustee can be held personally liable. Some examples of errors for which a trustee might be found liable include:
- Failing to distribute assets as instructed by the terms of the trust
- Failing to pay debts or tax liabilities of the trust, resulting in reduced value due to fines or fees
- Failing to communicate vital business information to beneficiaries
- Making risky investments that lead to losses of trust assets or their value
- Failing to serve the best interests of the beneficiaries
- Benefiting themselves at the expense of the trust or beneficiaries (self-dealing)
The best way to avoid making any of these errors is to enlist an experienced trust administration attorney to guide you through each step in the process of administering the trust.
Why Choose The Law Office of Polly Tatum to help with trust Administration?
Estate Attorneys at the Law Office of Polly Tatum have decades of experience helping clients with all aspects of estate planning and elder law, including trust administration. Their comprehensive knowledge of the requirements and responsibilities of trust administration can help make the trust administration process go more smoothly, even for inexperienced trustees. The last thing you want to do is to make an error that could result in the beneficiaries suffering losses or you being held liable and facing consequences. With the help of skilled trust administration attorneys, you will know that every step is being completed as required, protecting the assets of the trust, the beneficiaries, and you.
Call The Law Office of Polly Tatum today at (508) 571-5452 to schedule a consultation and get the help you need to serve successfully from an accomplished trust administration lawyer.