One popular estate planning tool in Florida is the revocable living trust, which allows individuals to transfer property into a trust during their lifetime and contains instructions for distribution upon their death. When you create a living trust, you name a successor trustee who manages your trust if you become unable to handle your financial affairs and upon your death; a successor trustee of a living trust is therefore similar in many ways to the executor of a will. Here is a specific overview of the duties and responsibilities of a successor trustee:
- Collecting death certificates — The trustee is responsible for ordering certified copies of your death certificate needed to prove you have passed away, which is a requirement before various accounts can be closed or assets can be disbursed.
- Gathering important documents — Your successor trustee must locate your financial and legal documents pertaining to real estate and other trust assets.
- Identifying assets — The trustee has the job of gathering all the assets that will be disbursed to the beneficiaries of your trust and protecting them until such time as they are distributed. If necessary, the trustee must arrange to have assets valued by a professional. For example, having an appraiser determine the fair market value of real estate.
- Gathering life insurance and retirement assets — If your trust is the beneficiary of any assets such as life insurance or retirement plans, your trustee will gather all the relevant documentation for distributing these funds.
- Paying debts — The trustee must pay off legitimate, outstanding debts on trust property. For example, a mortgage on real property may become due upon death. If necessary, the trustee must liquidate assets or take other steps to raise funds for paying off debts.
- Paying taxes — The trustee has an obligation to make sure all required tax returns and forms relating to trust property are completed and filed in a timely manner. He or she also must arrange for the payment of state and federal taxes, which is often done in consultation with a trust and estate lawyer.
- Working with your executor — If you have a last will and testament, the trustee will coordinate with your executor or personal representative throughout the probate process. It is important to designate the appropriate qualified persons or institutions to serve in these fiduciary roles.
Creating the right type of trust and naming the right trustees are critical estate planning decisions.
The experienced lawyers at Bankier, Arlen & Snelling Law Group, PLLC in Delray Beach assist clients in all areas of trust creation, planning and administration. To arrange a consultation, please call M. Adam Bankier at 561-278-3110, Robert M. Arlen at 561-279-1880 or Linda L. Snelling at 561-501-7778 or contact us online.