West Palm Beach Trustee or Co-Trustee Lawyer
Trusts provide a means of transferring assets in your estate to those you wish to receive them in a manner that enables you to avoid costly and drawn out probate, while protecting assets from creditors, providing for a family member with special needs, or fulfilling various other estate planning goals. If you have decided to create one or more trusts as a part of your estate planning strategy, you will need to determine who will be the trustee—the person charged with managing the assets in the trust for the benefit of the named beneficiaries. For a living or revocable trust, you will probably be the initial trustee and will continue to manage the assets as long as you are living and capable of doing so. You’ll still need to name the person or persons who will step in and take over the position of trustee after your death or incapacity. You might choose a family member, a trusted friend, or a lawyer who has experience with financial and estate planning matters, or a corporate trustee. You may also name co-trustees, for example one trustee who is a family member or friend and a co-trustee who is an attorney.
What Is a Trust, and Why Might You Choose to Create One or More?
A trust is a fiduciary instrument that allows a third party, the trustee, to hold assets on behalf of one or more beneficiaries. Trusts can be set up in many ways and can specify exactly how, when, in what amounts, and under what conditions the assets are to pass to the beneficiaries. Because trusts do not go through probate, your beneficiaries will usually be able to have access to the assets more quickly than if they were to be distributed through a will, which must go through a time-consuming and often expensive probate process.
Assets placed in an irrevocable trust, in which you forfeit control to a trustee while you are still living, are not part of your taxable estate and therefore not subject to inheritance taxes, which is often a significant consideration with larger estates.
Besides avoiding probate, expediting access to property, avoiding court fees, and minimizing inheritance taxes, trusts may provide a means to:
- Maintain control of your assets while you are living (with a revocable trust) while naming who will receive them upon your death;
- Protect your estate from your creditors or manage assets on behalf of beneficiaries who may not be able to manage them on their own;
- Provide a measure of privacy by avoiding probate, which is a matter of public record.
What Are a Trustee’s Responsibilities?
A trustee manages trust assets and distributes them among named beneficiaries according to the terms dictated by the settlor (the person creating the trust). The trustee’s actual duties will depend on the type of trust, the terms of the trust, the amount and types of assets in the trust, and the complexity of the trust. The basic duties of a trustee include:
- Identifying and preserving the trust’s assets
- Managing the assets according to the trust’s terms
- Distributing the assets as per the terms of the trust
- Maintaining precise records of any transactions conducted with trust funds
- Communicate with beneficiaries
- Terminating the trust at the time directed by the terms if the trust
- Filing the trust’s tax returns
Why Choosing a Professional as Trustee Often Makes the Most Sense
Serving as a trustee is an enormous responsibility, especially if the trust is large and/or complex. For someone who is not familiar with the legal issues involved, tax filings, or investment management strategies, the responsibility and the time involved may be overwhelming. Furthermore, naming one or more family members as trustees over other family members often results in conflicts, lawsuits and disputes which can last lifetimes.
One alternative that may avoid these pitfalls, is to name an individual, professional as trustee, particularly one with the legal and financial background to preserve, grow and administer trust assets, handle complex tax filings, and maintain professional, hands-on relationships with the beneficiaries.
If you feel that you want to name a family member as trustee, you might consider naming a professional, independent trustee to deflect potential ill-will or hostility between family members.
Getting the Help You Need: Choose a Florida Estates and Trusts Lawyer to Manage Your Trust
Choosing the best person to serve as trustee to manage and distribute your assets can ensure that the trust is managed properly and in accordance with the law, avoiding pitfalls and stressful disagreements among beneficiaries that might jeopardize family relationships.
Boca Raton, Florida, estates, trusts, and securities attorney Todd A. Zuckerbrod, P.A. is uniquely qualified to serve as your trustee or co-trustee. With more than 29 years of experience in the securities industry, he has the ability to manage large and complex portfolios, the understanding of estates and trust law as well as securities law needed to ensure that your assets are protected and grown until the time comes to distribute them, and the integrity and professionalism to ensure that everything is done in strict compliance with the law and tax codes. Rather than burdening a family member or friend with this heavy responsibility, consider naming Todd A. Zuckerbrod as either sole or co-trustee for your trust.
Call the law firm of Todd A. Zuckerbrod, P.A. to arrange your free consultation and discuss your trust and estate planning needs.