Estate Planning Lawyer
When someone creates a trust, they are wisely thinking ahead to when they may not be around, ensuring that someone they can rely on will take care of their assets and property. However, if someone has just named you a “trustee” or even a “successor trustee” for the first time, you may not be sure of what your responsibility is. Do you need to speak with an attorney? Do you act immediately? How involved should you be in the trust process? This may seem like an overwhelming job at first, especially if you are not sure of the details, but below you will find answers to frequently asked questions to guide you through the trustee and successor trustee process.
What Is a Trust?
A trust is similar in many senses to a will, but the two documents are different. The person who creates a trust goes by many things, including a “grantor”, a “creator”, or a “trustor”. The grantor will write down who they want to handle their final affairs and who they want to get their assets when they die or when an injury or illness incapacitates them. One of the most common types of trusts that people use is a revocable trust. This allows the grantor a great deal of flexibility when making changes to their trust, like adding new assets, removing obsolete assets, canceling it, and naming trustees.
What Is a Living Trust?
Many people favor a living trust because the grantor transfers their assets into the trust before they pass away, making it a much smoother process when the trustee steps in to begin managing their assets.
Who Are the Main People Involved In Trusts?
There are typically a few people involved, including:
- The Grantor. As noted above, this is the creator of the trust. Married couples can also be co-grantors.
- The Trustee. The grantor names the trustee as the person to manage their assets. It is possible to even name yourself as the first trustee so you can continue managing your own assets and finances.
- The Successor Trustee. If the original trustee can no longer manage the affairs as outlined in the trust, the grantor will usually name a successor trustee—a backup—to step in an ensure that they properly manage the remaining assets. In many cases, the successor trustee can be an individual or even a bank.
- The Beneficiaries. The beneficiaries of the trust are those who get the assets of the trust once the grantor passes away.
What Are My Responsibilities?
As the trustee, remember that you are not necessarily the beneficiary, but you are ensuring that they are taken care of as the grantor has outlined so that the beneficiaries can get them after the grantor dies. You:
- Cannot use the assets in the trust for personal gain unless the trust strictly authorizes it.
- Cannot favor any beneficiaries in the trust unless the trust specifically states to do so.
- Must keep accurate financial records and reports on tax returns.
Do I Have To Do This Alone?
While the law does not require you have a lawyer to help you out, it can be to your benefit to speak with an attorney who has worked with trusts before. To get help and legal advice regarding your responsibilities as a trustee, contact a trust lawyer Danbury, CT offers now.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Sweeney Legal, LLC for their insight into estate planning and the duties of a trustee.