Arizona Trust Administration Attorneys Make Transition Easy

When the Time Comes, You’re Not Alone –  One of the many benefits of establishing a trust is how power is transferred in the case of incapacitation or death. With successor trustees already designated by the trust, the transfer of control can be much less confusing and stressful. However, administering a trust is still a responsibility that requires understanding the role of initial and successor trustees. To transfer management to the successors, some paperwork and formalities are required. Fortunately, with a knowledgeable trust administration attorney working with you, these steps can be smooth and painless.

When the initial trustee is incapacitated or dies, the successor trustee takes over management and performs the necessary duties, often with the help of a trust administration attorney. In the case of incapacitation, the successor simply takes over the regular duties of the initial trustee. In the case of death, the successor must tie up the deceased’s affairs. These final responsibilities include:

  • Taking stock of the assets within the trust
  • Paying debts, taxes, and settling accounts
  • And distributing the assets within the trust to the named beneficiaries

In this way, a successor trustee performs a role very similar to the executor of a will— the estate is assessed first, then expenses are paid, and finally beneficiaries receive their inheritance. However, an executor must wait until the probate court approves a will as legitimate before performing these duties, while a successor trustee can act immediately. Furthermore, everything involved in a trust is kept private, while a last will and testament is filed with a court and made public.

Nonetheless, a successor trustee must still provide proof that they have been put in charge of the trust. This usually involves showing a death certificate or other documentation to the necessary authorities to prove death or incapacitation of the initial trustee. Producing this proof transfers authority to the successor to manage the trust’s bank accounts, insurance policies, investments, real estate, etc.

While this might sound like a lot of official paperwork, a levelheaded and experienced trust administration attorney by your side ensures the steps progress smoothly. The estate planning lawyers at Bellah Perez specialize in trust planning and administration. By helping draft the trust in advance, our lawyers know exactly how to navigate the transfer of power to the successor trustee, giving personalized attention to each case.

Choosing a Successor Trustee

Although a trust administration attorney can help shoulder the responsibility, a successor trustee still plays the largest role in the management of the trust after a death or incapacitation. Therefore whomever is chosen for this duty should be someone you trust to administer the estate properly, efficiently, and calmly.

Moreover, because trusts are often created well in advance, a lot can change before management is actually turned over to successor trustees. In case something happens to your first choice of successor, several alternate options are listed within the trust, with a hierarchy dictating if and when they take power. If the first successor trustee is incapacitated, resigns, or dies, the second choice takes over, then the third, and so on. To ensure there will certainly be someone available to administer the trust when the time comes, three or four choices are often listed.

Successor trustees don’t have to be an individual either. If you’re concerned about handing over the management of your assets to one person, you can choose a corporate entity instead. A corporate trustee might be a bank or a trust company designed to handle management and administration.

Additionally, more than one successor can act together if they are designated as co-trustees. Depending on the rules outlined in the trust, co-trustees can either make decisions together, with approval from both individuals, or they can act separately. Having co-trustees who can act independently of each other can be beneficial in administering the trust more efficiently. However, working together can also ensure everything is given careful attention and administered accurately.

A trust administration attorney can help you understand whether a single trustee, co-trustees, or corporate trustees are the best option for your estate planning needs. And regardless of which choice suits your situation best, our estate planning lawyers will be there to offer counsel and support at every step of the process.

Representation in a Variety of Estate Planning Matters

If you’re interested in creating a trust or have been named as a successor trustee, the patient and knowledgeable trust administration attorneys at Bellah Perez can help you understand the nuances of the trustees’ responsibilities. In addition to trust creation and administration, we handle a number of other estate planning matters, such as:

Set up a consultation with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys today. Contact Bellah Perez, PLLC at 602-252-9937.