DC Trusts: The Basics
A trust is a legal agreement that can be used as part of the estate planning process. It is best to consult a DC Trusts attorney to understand the nature of the document and its compliance with DC law.
What is a Trustee?
A trustee is the person nominated by the creator of the trust to manage the trust assets on behalf of the beneficiary. The trust document identifies the role and responsibilities of the trustee, but there are also some statutory obligations of the trustee. A trustee is generally responsible for managing the assets of the trust according to the provisions of the trust, filing the required tax returns and making any distributions according to the provisions of the trust.
What is a Beneficiary?
A trust beneficiary is the person who is designated to receive the trust assets. This could be a family member, a friend, charity, or even another trust.
Creating a Trust in DC
The most common reason that individuals create a trust is to provide for minor children or to provide for their spouse. However, there are many reasons why someone may want to create a trust, including avoiding probate in multiple jurisdictions, providing for a child, or grandchild, or other family member with special needs, maximizing the use of the DC estate tax exemption, allowing for asset management through multiple generations, and protecting assets against the creditors of beneficiaries.
A Trust Is Not a Bank Account
A bank account is owned by an individual or entity, and is used to hold funds. The titling of a bank account will dictate how the asset passes at the death of the owner.
A trust is a document that is created to manage funds as well. However, with a trust, the title of an asset (such as a bank account) is transferred into the trust and the terms of the trust govern the disposition of that asset. A trust can hold several different types of assets, including real estate.
Trust administration is the term used to describe the process of honoring the provisions in the trust. Depending on the nature of the trust, when it was created, or how it was created will dictate what the trust administration will encompass. Generally, trust administration includes managing the assets pursuant to the terms of the trust, filing any required tax returns, and then making distribution as prescribed in the trust document.
The attorney’s primary role in trust administration is to advise the trustee of his or her fiduciary obligation. The attorney does not advise the trustee how to manage the assets from a financial perspective, but how to manage and/or distribute the assets to be compliant with the terms of the trust.
An attorney may also help to advise the beneficiaries of a trust of his or her rights. Generally, an attorney will not advise both the trustee and the beneficiaries. If you are a beneficiary of a trust, you may wish to speak with an attorney to help you understand the administration process and the provisions of the trust agreement.
The attorney for trust administration can be selected at any time. Of course, an attorney who has familiarity with the concept or the ideas behind the creation of the estate plan has the most knowledge regarding trust administration. It is best to speak with an attorney at any time if you think you may be serving in the role as trustee or if there are any questions as a beneficiary regarding the trustee’s administration of a trust.
Looking For a Trust Attorney in DC
A person should look for an attorney who understands the use of the trust as part of a comprehensive estate plan. A trust is one method of planning for the future, but there are several others. An individual should consult with an attorney who is familiar with the trust laws, and is familiar with how the other components of an estate plan are coordinated to work with the trust.
You should consult a DC attorney who will thoroughly review your goals and assets, and will honestly tell you if a trust would be a beneficial part of your estate plan. The attorney should explain whether the incorporation of a trust or several trusts in your estate plan will assist you to meet your goals, or if a trust would be extraneous to your overall estate plan, resulting in additional costs and administrative burden.
Benefits of Consulting with a Lawyer in DC
There are common misconceptions about the use of trusts and the types of trust that individuals need. It is best to consult a DC attorney to determine whether a trust is a valuable tool in your overall estate plan, or whether your goals can be accomplished with any other estate planning method. Because there are so many types of trusts and they are used for different reasons, it is best to consult an attorney who can examine your overall estate plan and ensure that the trust is created, funded, and administered properly.