Posts Categorized: Trustee

Things to Consider Before Accepting Your Inheritance

An inheritance, like the loss of a loved one, can be life-changing. While there is no law that requires you to accept an inheritance, there are sometimes good reasons for doing so. And if you choose to turn down a gift, that does not mean it will end up in the hands of the state. Before accepting or rejecting an inheritance, you might seek legal and tax advice about the implications of either decision.

An estate plan contains instructions for distributing a person’s money and property when they pass away. Some families discuss who will receive certain accounts or property. For example, maybe all of the kids are asked if they would like to inherit an item from mom’s collection of family heirlooms. READ MORE

What To Do if Your Trustee Is Unresponsive

First things first, if your trustee has not responded to you, try examining your contact method. How have you tried to contact them? If you have left them a phone message, try sending them an email instead. If a text message has received no response, try sending a letter through the mail. And it should be obvious, but if you are argumentative or hostile, it is not surprising that the trustee is not responding, even if they have a duty to do so.

If you cannot speak in a civil manner to the trustee, try keeping all of your communication in writing, be clear about your questions and requests, and do so without accusations or threats. If you have tried multiple methods of communication with your trustee in a civilized manner and still have not received any response, then it is probably time to take it to the next level of involving the attorney. READ MORE

How to Keep Your Child’s Inheritance Out of Your In-Law’s Hands

During a marriage, the lines between what each partner owns can blur. Generally, whatever is acquired during the marriage by either partner becomes a marital property that is subject to division in the event of a divorce, but there are exceptions.

One exception is a bank account that is kept separate during the marriage. Inheritance money that you leave to your child or monetary gifts that you give to your child during your lifetime can theoretically go into a separate account. However, in practice, it can be difficult for spouses to avoid commingling bank accounts. Even something as simple as depositing marital money into the account or using it to pay bills during the marriage could make the account marital property. READ MORE

Estate Planning FAQs For LGBTQ+ Couples

As we wrap up another Pride Month, the LGBTQ+ community faces an increasingly uncertain legal landscape. In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, ending the recognition of a constitutional right to abortion, many are worried that other rights, especially those enjoyed by same-gender couples, might also be threatened. 

In fact, with Roe overturned, legal experts warn that the Supreme Court’s new Republican majority may come for landmark LGBTQ-rights decisions next, including marriage equality established by Obergefell v. Hodges. In light of this potential challenge, same-gender couples must ensure their estate plans are carefully reviewed and updated by an estate planning lawyer who understands the special needs of LGBTQ+ planning to address any such developments. READ MORE

If You’ve Been Asked To Serve As Trustee, Here’s What You Should Know

If a family member or friend has asked you to serve as trustee for their trust either during their life or upon their death, it’s a big honor – this means they consider you among the most honest, reliable, and responsible people they know.

That said, serving as a trustee is not only a great honor; it’s also a significant responsibility, and the role is not for everyone. Serving as a trustee entails a broad array of duties. You are ethically and legally required to execute those duties properly, or you could be liable for not doing so. READ MORE

Silent Trusts: Could I Be the Beneficiary of a Trust and Not Know It?

After a trust has been created, the trustee has specific legal duties to the beneficiaries. Although a trustee’s duties vary by state, in most states, a trustee must disclose the trust’s existence, identify themselves as the trustee, and send the beneficiaries yearly accounting statements on request with information about the trust’s assets (accounts and property), taxes, distributions, and performance.

A silent trust eliminates the legal requirement that the trustee tells the beneficiaries about the trust’s existence or terms for a period of time. Typically, a silent trust’s terms will provide a triggering event, such as the beneficiary reaching a certain age or achieving a particular milestone or the trustmaker’s death or incapacity. The trustee’s obligations to inform the beneficiary begin only upon the occurrence of the triggering event. READ MORE

Does a Domestic Partner Have the Same Rights as a Spouse When It Comes to Estate Planning?

Everyone knows what a marriage is, but not everyone knows what a domestic partnership is. To answer whether domestic partners have the same estate planning rights as married spouses, it is helpful to define what a domestic partnership is.

A domestic partnership is an alternative to marriage created for same-sex couples who could not legally marry. However, when the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges, marriage became an option for same-sex couples. A domestic partnership is not just for same-sex couples; any couple can choose this status when marriage is not something they desire, for whatever reason. READ MORE

How to Protect Yourself from Claims of Self-Dealing When Serving as a Trustee

A trustee usually has quite a bit of discretion in managing a trust’s accounts, money, and property (known as assets). At the same time, as a fiduciary, a trustee also owes the trust’s beneficiaries a duty of loyalty, which prohibits the trustee from self-dealing. In the simplest terms, self-dealing happens when a trustee uses the trust’s assets for their benefit instead of for the beneficiaries’ benefit.

Despite this simple definition, self-dealing can be much harder to identify in practice and is often done in ignorance, particularly when complicating factors such as the trustee being a trust beneficiary. READ MORE

5 Ways DIY Estate Plans Can Fail & Leave Your Family At Risk – Part 2

State laws are also particular about who can serve in specific roles like executor, trustee, or financial power of attorney. In some states, for instance, the executor of your will must either be a family member or an in-law and if not, the person must live in your state. If your chosen executor doesn’t meet those requirements, they cannot serve.

Furthermore, some states require the person you name as your executor to get a bond, like an insurance policy, before they can serve. Such bonds can be challenging to get for someone who has a less-than-stellar credit score. If your executor cannot get a bond, it would be up to the court to appoint your executor, which could end up being someone you would never want managing your assets or a third-party professional who could drain your estate with costly fees. READ MORE

Common Trusts: Parenting beyond the Grave

You probably do not keep a ledger of how much each child costs you. You spend as much money as each child requires. Inevitably, there are spending imbalances. Although not perfectly equal in terms of dollar amounts, such an approach can be considered fair because you allocate funds based on need instead of an arbitrary measure such as age.

Fairness involves accounting for the differences among your children. You want to be fair to them in life – and in death. When setting up an estate plan, you are acknowledging the unpleasant possibility – no matter how remote – that you may not be around to care for your minor children while they are growing up. READ MORE

5 Ways DIY Estate Plans Can Fail & Leave Your Family At Risk – Part 1

Creating your estate plan using online document services can give you a false sense of security – you think you’ve got estate planning covered when you most likely do not. DIY plans may even lead you to believe that you no longer need to worry about estate planning, causing you to put it off creating a proper plan off until it’s too late.

In this way, relying on DIY estate planning documents is one of the most dangerous choices you can make. In the end, such generic forms could end up costing your family even more money and heartache than if you’d never gotten around to doing any planning at all. READ MORE

QTIP Trust – Will My Spouse Get What They Need?

A qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust is an estate planning tool that married couples can use to minimize uncertainty about the future and maximize certain tax advantages. Since no one can predict how much they will own at the time of their death, which spouse will die first, whether the surviving spouse will remarry, or what the estate tax rate will be when they die, a QTIP trust can help deal with and minimize these uncertainties without the need for a crystal ball.

The most common form of a QTIP trust is a testamentary QTIP, created when the first spouse dies. This QTIP is a marital trust established as part of a married couple’s estate plan to hold money and property for the surviving spouse’s benefit. This trust may be the only one created at the first spouse’s death, or it may be part of a multiple trust arrangement where, after the first spouse’s death, the family trust (or credit shelter trust) receives an amount equal to the federal estate tax exemption and the marital trust gets the rest. READ MORE

Why Putting Your Family Home In A Trust Is A Smart Move – Part 2

We explained how revocable living and irrevocable trusts work in part one. We discussed the process of transferring the legal title of your home into a trust to ensure it’s adequately funded. Here, in part two, we will outline the key advantages of using a trust to pass your home to your loved ones compared to other estate planning strategies.

One of the primary advantages of using a trust to pass on your home to your heirs is avoiding the court process known as probate. Unlike a will, assets held in trust do not have to go through probate. During probate, the court oversees the will’s administration, ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes, with automatic supervision to handle any disputes. READ MORE

Why Putting Your Family Home In A Trust Is A Smart Move – Part 1

A proper estate planning is as much a part of responsible homeownership as having homeowners insurance or keeping your home’s roof well maintained. When it comes to including your home in your estate plan, you have a variety of different planning vehicles to choose from, but for a variety of other reasons, putting your home in a trust is often the smartest choice. 

Although you should consult with us your Family Lawyer to identify the best estate planning strategies for your particular circumstances, in this two-part series, we’ll discuss how trusts work (both revocable and irrevocable), and then outline the most common advantages of using a trust to pass your home to your loved ones compared to other planning strategies. READ MORE