Advice in Trust Administration
A trust serves to hold assets and in turn protect people and property. Trustees are delegated to carry out the function of the trust. This process is quite complex and often requires the vigilant watch of an attorney. The duties of a trustee are very similar to the duties of a personal representative. These duties include controlling the property in the trust, record keeping duties, paying taxes, making beneficiary distributions and also relieving any debts owed to creditors of the decedent.
Florida law requires that when a person dies, a notice must be filed with the court containing the name of the trust and the trustee’s information. Florida law also demands that all beneficiaries within the trust are entitled to their own copy of the trust and the information about the assets and accounts in the trust. This allows the beneficiaries to have an idea of whether the trustee is managing the trust according to its terms. A trustee cannot make any transactions out of the trust for the sole benefit of themselves or anyone else who is not a beneficiary. Additionally, a beneficiary of a trust is entitled to go to court and be granted the right to examine the receipts and records of the transactions made during the administration of the trust. For example, let’s say your older brother is named trustee of a trust and he suddenly pulls up in a new Lamborghini. As a beneficiary you are entitled to examine the trust transactions if you are suspicious that the new sports car was improperly paid for by the trust funds.
It is always important as a trustee to set forth realistic expectations to the beneficiaries. A trustee’s job is to keep the beneficiaries informed about how the trust assets are being managed. As a trustee, one of the best ways to ensure things are running smoothly is to keep in regular contact with the beneficiaries and offer to provide all of the financial transactions that have taken place over a certain period. If you are the trustee as well as a beneficiary, it may be especially important to keep accurate and open records of all transactions because it is your job to be fair to everyone and never benefit yourself at another beneficiary’s expense.
Since trusts are not administered by the probate court, the trustee is not discharged by a judge, but rather when the obligations of the trust are complete. If all of the beneficiaries are satisfied they can agree for the trustee to be discharged of any further administration duties. For example, Let’s say your older sister is named trustee of the trust which provides financial assistance for your college education. Your sister becomes tired of dealing with the duties assigned to her and attempts to discharge herself as trustee, but the obligations of the trust have yet to be complete because you have yet to receive the funds necessary to complete your junior and senior year. In that case, your sister would need to ensure that either the job is complete or that she is handing the duties over to another capable successor trustee in order to not be liable for harm done to you.
At The Estate Plan, our years of experience in estate planning and trust formation offers our clients a dependable perspective in administering complex trusts. Our far-reaching network of professionals means that our clients receive comprehensive and cost-effective trust administration services. If you have any questions about trust administration, please call The Estate Plan at (305) 665-8888. We’d be happy to help.