Do You Need A Lawyer To Administer A Trust?

 

Video Summary

 

Do you need a lawyer to administer a trust?

 

This usually comes up whenever we have a person who sets up a revocable trust for the purposes of avoiding probate, and when they pass away, they designate someone as the successor trustee. So, the successor trustee then becomes the owner of the, or entitled to the property that's held in the trust, and they can take care of distributing the assets to the various beneficiaries. Whether or not the person needs or should have an attorney depends on the complexity of the trust.

 

A trust, once the person who set it up passes away, is supposed to obtain a federal identification number, because it then becomes a separate tax-paying entity. And so that, whenever any income comes in, it's not taxed to the successor taxee under their individual social security number. There can be, also, questions, if this is an ongoing trust, as far as what duties you owe to the various beneficiaries.

 

Under the Florida statute, a successor trustee is to send or notify the beneficiaries of the trust, and that they are beneficiaries. They also should serve upon them an inventory, letting them know what assets are in the trust. And, further, if it's an ongoing trust, or takes some time to administer, they should send out an annual accounting, giving the beneficiaries notice that if they have any complaints about how the trustee is handling the finances of the trust, they have six months in which to object.

 

One of the most often asked questions of the successor trustee _____ is, "What do I have to do as far as paying the creditors of the deceased settler, or the person who set up the trust?" This is somewhat problematic, in that there may not be a probate proceeding, and the trustee would be responsible for paying those bills. A notice of trust should be filed with the clerk of the court.

 

The question is, "Well, should I make distribution of all these assets? And then, what happens if a bill comes in?" Well, that is a real problem, as far as giving the successor trustee a definitive answer, in that the creditors can file claims or sue the estate and trust up to two years after the person's death. So, it's important to understand who the creditors are, and do a reasonable search to determine the ascertainable creditors.

 

The other issue is filing a fiduciary tax return – that is, a tax return by the trustee that reports whatever income has come in, and then sending out the notice to the beneficiaries of how much they must pay in taxes. So all of these are matters that need to be addressed, whenever you become a successor trustee, and it's usually sometimes not within the successor trustee's expertise, if they are not a professional trustee, in order to do that.

 

So, it may be wise to consult with an attorney, and discuss with them whatever trust that you may be the successor trustee, to determine just exactly what you need to do, and whether or not you need to engage the services of the attorney. As far as the administration of the trust, so you do not become personally liable for any of the debts, and be protected as far as the beneficiaries are concerned.

 

 

If you'd like some advice, or set up an appointment to discuss administration of a trust, well, give me a call, at 727-847-2288.