Trusts have become a very popular estate planning tool. That means there are more and more trustees around who are now obligated to administer a trust. If you’re the trustee of a trust, you may be a bit overwhelmed with the responsibilities and duties of being in that position. Should you hire a trust attorney?
First, some basic information. There are many different kinds of trusts, but generally a trust is a three-party financial arrangement:
Trustor (grantor): The person who creates the trust and names a trustee to control the assets. In some cases, the trustor can be the trustee.
Trustee: The person who manages the property or assets in the trust and administers the trust using the terms of the trust.
Beneficiary: The beneficiary or beneficiaries are the people who will receive benefits from the trust agreement. They will be given the contents of the trust by the trustee according to the terms of the agreement the trustor put in the trust.
In general, trusts are like a box where assets can be held for the trustor’s benefit during their lifetime, and thereafter for the benefit of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. Some trusts have very specific purposes like a spendthrift trust, which is created for the benefit of a person (often unable to control their spending) that gives an independent trustee full authority to make decisions as to how the trust funds may be spent for the beneficiary’s benefit
When you hire a trust lawyer to help administer a trust, they can help you:
- Understand the trust terms. As a trustee you must comprehend and follow the terms of the trust. These terms and concepts are written by legal professionals, so they can be challenging to completely understand. A skilled Massachusetts trust administration attorney can explain any of the complicated sections of the trust wording. If you fail to understand the trust’s terms, you could make a mistake. You have a fiduciary responsibility, which means you’re required by law to exercise a certain standard of care in your role. If you make a mistake administering the trust, you could be held personally liable for those errors.
- Comprehend the law. There are state and federal laws that govern trusts. As the trustee, you’ll need to understand those laws and administer the trust according to them. If you break one of the applicable laws, you and the trust could be liable for any damages.
- Resolve or avoid conflicts with beneficiaries. Trustees are often family members of the beneficiaries, or at least have a close relationship with them. This can make it awkward to administer the trust if you have discretionary powers under the trust’s terms. Let’s say the trust allows you to disburse money to a beneficiary as needed. If you don’t agree with the reason a beneficiary requests money from the trust, you could find yourself in an argument with the beneficiary. A trust administration attorney can review the trust with you and help you understand what the best decision would be.
- Reinforce your position. Sometimes beneficiaries can get a little anxious about their inheritances. Maybe one of them is questioning something you’ve done or thinks their inheritance isn’t getting to them fast enough. Beneficiaries may threaten to remove you from the position to appoint another trustee. A qualified Massachusetts trust lawyer can help prevent your removal by providing legally required information and dealing with heirs on your behalf.
- Move the trust administration process along. If you’re a trustee for the trust of a friend or family member who has just died, you’re going through a difficult time emotionally. It’s tough to undertake the administration process yourself at the same time you’re grieving. A trust attorney can help guide you through the administration process and shoulder a lot of that burden for you.
As an experienced Massachusetts trust attorney, I can help you through the labor-intensive trust administration process. I can work with you to make sure you’re fulfilling your fiduciary duty and lighten the amount of work on your shoulders. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.