TRUST ADMINISTRATION IN MISSOURI
Over the years, I have had the honor to serve as a trustee of a few living trusts, as my clients have requested. It is an honor for these clients to choose me to help execute their estate plans and to work with their chosen trust beneficiaries in Missouri.
As a trust lawyer O’Fallon Missouri, it is interesting to see how things work in reality after a client has passed away. I’ve always been pleasantly surprised at how much easier the process is than probate and a much less stressful process at that.
When a client passes away and I am the successor trustee, my job is to immediately secure all of the trust assets and to ascertain who are the beneficiaries of the trust. It’s also my job to collect all the mail of the client to learn about any debts they may have. This usually means having their mail forwarded to my office so that I can keep tabs on any amounts owed.
Because a revocable trust becomes irrevocable when the grantor (creator) dies, I have to obtain a tax identification number (TIN) from the IRS. With the trust documents and the TIN in hand, I can visit the client’s bank of choice and access all funds held by the trust. If the funds are payable on death to the trust, the process is a little different but I will still create a trust account to hold all the liquidated assets of the trust estate.
Assets like houses and cars have to be accessed and determined whether they are to go directly to a beneficiary via the trust. If so, I make arrangements to work with that beneficiary to transfer that asset to them. In a recent case, there was a mortgage against the property but very little cash. The house was very nice but needed some money put into it to get it on the market. Finding the right balance for this kind of situation is part of the job of the trustee. In this particular case, we opted to stage the house but not to do things like paint it – we figured we could sell potential buyers on the fact that they could get it painted the color they want. It turned out to be a great strategy.
Communication with beneficiaries is an important part of being a trustee. In addition to providing a copy of the trust document to all beneficiaries, it’s important for the trustee to be proactive in letting beneficiaries know what’s going on and when they can expect their distribution of funds (or property) from the trust estate.
Finally, most trust documents empower the trustee to hire just about anyone they need to administer trust business, including financial advisors, attorneys and accountants. It’s important that the trustee not moonlight as they are a fiduciary responsible to maintain trust funds for the beneficiaries. Any loss attributed to malfeasance (investing in penny stocks resulting in financial loss, for example) by the trustee can result in personal liability.
Trust administration is a very complex area of law and requires the expertise of a trust administration lawyer O’Fallon, Missouri.