THE ATTORNEY AS QUARTERBACK OF THE TRUST ESTATE
Courtesy of the Elder Law Firm of Anderson Associates, P.C.
When a loved one dies, it is difficult enough to cope with the loss and grief that follows, let alone deal with the complex wilderness of the trust settlement process. Unless the estate is small and the issues simple, there are just too many risks to try to tackle trust administration without the professional help of a Trust department or an experienced tax attorney available at the Elder Law Firm of Anderson Associates.
At Anderson Associates we have helped more than 7,000 families with their estate plans.
What Can Go Wrong?
1. Tax Traps Abound
We have seen surviving heirs make costly tax mistakes, such as taking a 100% lump sum out of IRAs, failing to distribute income before 12/31, and causing excise taxes on IRAs, just to name a few. Many accountants and investment advisors are unfamiliar with all the tax issues involved in Trust administration.
2. Suspicion, Resentment, Disharmony and Litigation Are on the RiseWhen a family member has been appointed as Trustee, suspicion, jealousy, disharmony and even litigation have increased to 25%1. Why the increase? It boils down to (A) the sense of entitlement baby-boomers have once the parental glue that held the family together is no longer there, (B) the resentment and jealousy of those excluded from decision-making and, (C) the mistakes, delays, and controlling behavior of those in charge. An inexperienced Trustee will face a myriad of unfamiliar fiduciary duties which, if not carried out correctly, can result in liability to the Trustee. An experienced trust attorney can really help the Trustee satisfy duties and reduce Beneficiary suspicion and encourage harmony.
3. It's A Wilderness Out ThereTo settle a trust means doing battle with powerful financial gatekeepers, creditors, and governmental agencies in order to obtain information, sell assets, pay bills, and distribute funds. Our team at Anderson Associates knows how to navigate through this maze. As Quarterback of the trust estate, we can solve problems efficiently and take the pain out of the Trustee's job. We can also save on taxes and help prevent disharmony among the beneficiaries. We will work with the financial companies involved and the selected CPA or accountant. We did a good job in setting up the estate plan, and we are ready to be the trustworthy guide in settling it when death occurs.
1. In his law review article, Timothy P. O'Sullivan estimates current family conflicts at 33% in estate plans, see "Family Harmony: All Too Frequent Casualty of the Estate Planning Process", p. 250, Marquette University Law School "Elder Advisor", May 2007
© Copyright reserved by Elder Law Firm of Anderson Associates, P.C. January 2011