At Merlino & Gonzalez, our Staten Island and New Jersey estate planning attorneys are adept at helping our clients manage their trusts and work with trust administration. During more than two decades in practice, we have earned a reputation for integrity and superior customer service.
If you’ve been appointed a trustee, we can help you understand exactly what your duties and responsibilities are. We also provide legal assistance to beneficiaries who have questions about the way trusts are handled.
You can be confident in our legal skills, our up-to-date knowledge of trust laws, and our priority with meeting your needs and expectations. If you’re located anywhere in New York or New Jersey, contact us for more information.
The Purpose of Trusts & Trust Administration
Trusts serve many purposes in estate planning, including:
- Minimizing estate taxes.
- Avoiding probate.
- Protecting minor children.
- Making sure beneficiaries who have trouble managing money do not go through their inheritance too quickly.
- Ensuring the well-being of pets who outlive their human caretakers.
As attorneys who prepare and administer trusts, we know how to ease the path of trustees who are just becoming familiar with the process. We’re focused on protecting their interests as well as the best interests of the beneficiary.
The Duties of the Trustee
All trustees are fiduciaries, which means they must always protect the trust assets and work in the best interests of the beneficiaries whose trusts they manage. That’s why trustees need to work closely with experienced trust administration attorneys—to make sure the job is getting done the right way.
The person who creates a trust is a “settlor.” Some settlors may decide to use a professional trustee rather than a personal one, like a third party who is not a family member or friend. A professional trustee can be a lawyer, accountant, or financial institution.
Whoever the trustee may be, they have multiple duties, such as:
- Informing the beneficiary of the settlor’s death, the trust, and its terms.
- Inventorying trust assets.
- Arranging for an appraisal of trust assets if necessary.
- Transferring property into the trust or selling it.
- Obtaining tax ID numbers.
- Filing estate tax returns and paying taxes.
- Paying bills for services to the estate, such as accounting.
- Preserving trust assets by investing them conservatively.
- Setting up appropriate tools for recordkeeping.
- Distributing trust assets to the beneficiary.
- Keeping precise and accurate records.
- Providing annual reports to the beneficiary on the state of the trust.
A trustee who fails in these tasks can be held accountable and face civil fines and other penalties. If you don’t want that happening to you, our trust administration attorneys can help make sure that’s not the case.
The Basics of Trust Accounting
Although trusts require minimal court oversight or intervention, trustees must provide annual trust accountings to beneficiaries who receive distributions during the accounting period. A trust accounting must report the following information:
- Assets and liabilities of the trust.
- How trust funds have been distributed.
- Payments to agents the trustee has retained, such as attorneys or appraisers.
- Trustee expenses for things like asset storage, taxes, and insurance.
- Compensation to the trustee for services rendered.
Because this extensive reporting can get complicated, it’s wise to work with a trust administration attorney who knows the ins and out of the trust code. Our savvy lawyers will help you to prepare a trust accounting that’s accurate, acceptable to beneficiaries, and will lessen the risk of disputes and litigation.
Issues That Complicate Trust Administration in Staten Island and New Jersey
Even if you’re well-trained in financial matters and are dependable, administering a trust is challenging. Not only can bookkeeping and management become overwhelming, but family disputes can arise, no matter how carefully the accounting is conducted.
If problems do arise, it always helps to have a team like Merlino & Gonzalez at your side. We have an impressive track record of handling disputes through negotiations and protecting trust assets from courtroom expenses. Another advantage of working collaboratively with our trust administration attorneys is that you’ll be given access to our network of accounting, appraising, and investing experts, making disputes and mistakes less likely to occur.
Contact Our Experienced Staten Island and New Jersey Trust Administration Attorneys Today
Merlino & Gonzalez has a long history of successfully assisting clients with trust administration. We’re easy to work with and will explain each part of the process in a way you can understand and appreciate. Our goal is to answer all your questions and address all your concerns.
Being a trustee is an important position that demonstrates your dedication to the deceased and the beneficiary. We know you’re likely doing all this hard work while still grieving for the loved one you lost, so we want to help you handle your responsibilities with the care they deserve, while also treating you with the kindness and respect you need. Contact our experienced attorneys today for a consultation.
Merlino & Gonzalez help residents of New York & New Jersey with their trust administration needs. Since their primary office is in Staten Island, they receive a lot of clients there as well as in the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, & The Bronx.