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I’m the Trustee – Now What?

Your parents, or your sister, or your grandmother called you at some point in your distant memory and told you they had named you “trustee.” You didn’t know exactly what it meant, but you weren’t super excited to talk about their death any longer than you had to, so you said that was fine and moved the conversation into more pleasant territory.

Fast forward to the funeral. You’re stressed, sad, uncomfortable, and your brother, nephew, or uncle asks you what’s next. “How should I know what’s next?” “Well you’re the trustee aren’t you?” Now you have to figure out what’s next. What bills do I need to pay? Who is supposed to get what money? How long should it take to clean out the house? Does someone want to keeping living there? Who handles the investment accounts? Who is the life insurance agent? What am I supposed to do?

That’s where we come in. A lawyer will read the trust and determine what the items are that you need to have a handle on:

  1. Who are the beneficiaries? The most important item is determining who is entitled to receive distributions from the trust and, in many cases, under what circumstances. You may have to hold money until beneficiaries reach certain ages or achieve certain milestones in life, and you may have to exercise discretion over the distributions that leads to uncomfortable conversations with people you love. We can help you through that.
  2. What assets are held in trust? Is there a house? An investment account? Is the trust a beneficiary of a retirement account or a life insurance policy? Is there some income-producing asset like a rental property or an interest in a business? The trust documentation may have some of this information, but it may require some legwork to figure out.
  3. What discretion do you have? Are you supposed to sell the house, or are you supposed to let the kids or the surviving spouse live there? Are you allowed or disallowed from making certain investments? These answers will be in the text of the trust, but they may not be as obvious as you might think.

Once you’ve worked with an attorney to get things moving and get the trust running smoothly, you will probably be able to take the reins after a while. What you don’t want, though, is to try it on your own and be months or even years down the road and learn you’ve done it wrong the whole time. We can provide a helping hand during the turbulent emotional period after your loved one dies, and the peace of mind knowing you’ve got a firm foundation for as long as you administer the trust.

If you want help administering a trust or a probate estate, please give us a call and come in for a consultation with one of our staff.

Ben Worsowicz is an Associate at Lardiere McNair, LLC.  To read more about our firm, please visit www.lawyerscolumbusohio.com.

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