Estate Planning Lawyer
When someone names you as the “trustee” in their trust, this news may cause you to feel overwhelmed at the potential responsibility you have. However, the best way you can face this stress is to become informed. It can be devastating for all involved when a loved one passes away or if an injury or illness incapacitates them, but if they created a trust, then they have documented their final wishes and someone they trust can ensure that their affairs are in order. If a loved one recently passed away or if an injury incapacitated them leaving you as the trustee, below are frequently asked questions that can help you prepare for this role.
What If I Am a “Successor Trustee”?
If the grantor named you as the successor trustee instead of the trustee, you likely have no responsibilities immediately. Instead, the first trustee will manage the grantor’s affairs. However, if the trustee passes away or can no longer act in this position, the successor trustee steps in. In many cases, there are multiple successor trustees named who can work together.
Will This Be a Surprise?
While a grantor can name someone as a trustee without speaking with them, they will likely make sure that this is a position you are willing to take and that you are very familiar with the trust and what it states. For example, the grantor will need to inform you of the trust’s location and where they keep specific documents, like insurance policies and financial records. You should also be aware of any other trustees, successor trustees, and named beneficiaries.
Am I In This Alone?
Being someone’s trustee does not have to mean you do this process alone. In fact, it is not unusual to get financial advice from accountants and investors and even speak with an attorney when making important legal decisions.
Who Decides When the Grantor Is Legally Incapacitated?
One of the first places you might look is the trust. This may outline how the grantor defined their incapacity. On the other hand, it may take doctors and medical experts to ensure that the grantor is not physically or mentally able to make their own decisions.
What Do I Do If a Doctor States They Are Incapacitated?
If they successfully transferred their assets to the trust, you can then begin making decisions as the trustee to manage their assets and finances. One of the greatest benefits of the trust is that there should be no need to go through a court system. Locate the trust document and notify any other co-trustees as soon as you are aware of the situation. This is also a good time to speak with an attorney if you have any questions regarding your responsibilities.
Ensure you know how the grantor’s insurance works (what it will and will not cover) and speak with the grantor’s doctors if banks or others need proof that the grantor is no longer able to make their own decisions before they can work with you.
What Else Can I Do?
While this process can be confusing at times, getting help from a trust lawyer Danbury, CT relies on can make it much smoother and can ensure that you know your responsibilities and can perform them to the best of your ability.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Sweeney Legal, LLC for their insight into estate planning and knowing the responsibilities of a trustee.