Who Should I Name as Trustee of My Trust?
Selecting Trustee of a Trust Carefully

Who Should I Name as Trustee of My Trust?

Who do you “trust” to make certain that your financial legacy lives on? Kiplinger’s recent article, “Consider Your Trustee Carefully: It Makes a Difference,” advises you to remember that selecting a trustee of a trust should be thought of as more of a business decision than a personal one. A trust can be perfectly designed for success, but its goals may not be fully carried out, when a trustee lacks knowledge, dedication, or objectivity.

You should know the trustee’s fiduciary responsibilities to make an informed choice when selecting someone to perform the duties. Consider more than a person’s understanding and respect for your financial goals and values, because a trustee must also play a big part in investment management, tax planning and filing, making appropriate distributions to beneficiaries or for their benefit and protecting the trust’s assets.

The trustee must regularly review beneficiaries’ requests for money and decide when to approve or deny distributions, in accordance with the trust’s instructions. Making this decision can be difficult and stressful for someone with a personal connection to the beneficiary.

One option is a corporate trustee, like a trust company or bank trust department. They can provide an objective, third-party opinion based on the long-term objectives of the trust. A corporate trustee can serve as either the sole trustee or co-trustee of your trust. Naming a professional trustee, along with a trusted friend or family member may be a good move.

Using a corporate trustee can potentially diminish unanticipated family tension, and also enables the sharing of fiduciary responsibilities with the co-trustee. The co-trustees must act in concert, unless the trust allows one co-trustee to act alone. It also may let the corporate trustee make the tough decisions in this situation, without doing further harm to the family relationship of the personal co-trustee and beneficiary.

Choosing the right trustee(s) can help make certain that your financial legacy and intentions will be carried out, plus, it will be done professionally and objectively solely for your heirs’ benefit.

Selecting a good trustee is an important decision.

Reference: Kiplinger (October 14, 2019) “Consider Your Trustee Carefully: It Makes a Difference”

What Does an Executor Actually Do?
An Executor Has Significant Responsibility

What Does an Executor Actually Do?

Investopedia’s recent article, “The Executor’s Checklist: 7 Tasks Before They Die,” reminds us that being executor of an estate means significant responsibility. It can be a daunting task, if you’re unprepared. Here are some simple steps to take while the testator is still alive to make the executor’s job easier.

  1. Be sure to Have the Location of the Will and Other Estate Planning Documents. This is a no-brainer. You make the executor’s job easier, if the testator keeps the original will, deeds, partnership documents, insurance policies, or other important papers in an agreed-upon spot, with copies at a backup location.
  2. Retitled Accounts Where Appropriate. If the testator has a spouse, mostly like they want assets to flow directly through to the widow(er), so make accounts as joint and make sure that properties and titles are in both names.
  3. Make a List of the Testator’s Preferences. Another way to make things easy on the family is to include funeral preferences, which need to be in writing and signed by the testator.
  4. Draft a Possessions List and Their Recipients. A big issue that is often overlooked is distributing personal possessions that have little financial value but great sentimental value. Along with the testator, an executor can create a list for the dispersal of personal items, as well as a system of distribution. The testator can include their reasoning for who got what gift. Sharing the list with those involved may also eliminate some hurt feelings. An organized dispersal can make an executor’s job easier and help with issues of fairness.
  5. Create an Annual Accounting Sheet and Updating Schedule. If the testator keeps track of the estate electronically on an annual basis, the executor will have a good idea of assets when it’s required. This e-document will also decrease the time spent searching for that jewelry the testator gave to a granddaughter or tracking down the funds that were supposedly in a now-empty investment account.
  6. Create a Sealed Online Accounts Document. An executor should also have a record of the testator’s online presence to deactivate accounts. This document simplifies work for the executor.
  7. Meet the Relevant Professionals. Executors should be familiar with the accountant, estate planning attorney and other professionals the testator uses. They may have further advice specific to the testator’s situation.

Preparation will greatly decease the odds of any complications, when carrying out your duties as an executor. Take these actions while the testator is still alive to help make certain that the executor carries out the testator’s wishes.

The role of an executor carries substantial responsibility.

Reference: Investopedia (July 11, 2019) “The Executor’s Checklist: 7 Tasks Before They Die”

Not Having a Will Should Scare You
Not Having a Will Leaves your Family with a Mess

Not Having a Will Should Scare You

For families of people who don’t have a will, dealing with their estate is an expensive, stressful and time-consuming experience. A will isn’t anything to be afraid of, says the Herald Journal in the article “It’s Halloween, do you have a will?” Here’s a list of things not to do that should be useful for anyone who doesn’t have a will yet.

Don’t procrastinate. You can keep on waiting until there’s a better time, but life has a way of happening while we’re waiting. Now is the time to do your will. For your sake, and your family’s sake, don’t put it off any longer.

This is not a do-it-yourself project. No matter how simple you think your estate is, it isn’t. A form that you download from a website may not be legal in your state. Nothing can replace the sense of security that sitting down with an experienced estate planning attorney can give to you and your family. You’ll know that your will is legally valid in your state, follows all the right steps and was created for your unique situation.

An estate plan requires more than a will. There are many other documents and strategies to consider. Chances are that you already have more than a few other accounts to consider, like an insurance policy, investment accounts and jointly owned accounts. For an estate plan to protect you and your family, you’ll need a power of attorney, health care power of attorney, a living will and possibly a trust. A qualified attorney will help you coordinate all of your assets and make sure everything is properly prepared.

Don’t set it and forget it. Your life changes, and so should your estate plan. There have been some large changes to the tax law in recent years, and a number of bills are now pending in Congress that may bring even bigger changes in 2020. Your family may have celebrated a marriage, welcomed a new child or experienced a loss. All of these issues require updates to your estate plan.

Don’t hide your will and estate planning documents. Having all of these documents prepared properly is step one. The next step is to make sure that your family members know where the documents have been stored and how to access them. They should not be in a safe deposit box, as those are usually sealed upon the death of the owner. If you don’t own a waterproof, fireproof safe, consider purchasing one. Then tell a trusted family member where it is.

If charitable giving is part of your life, make it part of your legacy. Making a charitable gift as part of your estate plan can be helpful in reducing your estate taxes. It also sends a positive message about philanthropy to your family.

Make an appointment with an estate planning attorney to create your will, establish protection for yourself and your spouse in case of incapacity and create a legacy.

A will is a start but not a complete estate plan.

Reference: Herald Journal (October 26, 2019) “It’s Halloween, do you have a will?”