Trusts are often seen as the ultimate estate-planning solution, as they are a good way to get your financial affairs in order. However, creating a trust is not just a “set it and forget it” situation because trust administration requires time, as well as associated fees.
Although this process is probably easier than potentially complex probate affairs, you should still seek the assistance of an experienced Arizona trust attorney, as trustees are required to fulfill multiple fiduciary duties when administering the trust.
These duties include compliance with federal law and Arizona state law, preserving trust funds, and ensuring the transfer of assets to beneficiaries of the trust occurs according to the trust’s terms. Trust administration can become quite complex, so the best idea is to hire the services of an Arizona attorney with experience in this field.
Consider the steps you need to take for proper trust administration.
1. Learn the Value of the Trust’s Assets
In some instances, things are a bit easier because the trust document provides details relating to assets and their values. However, when these values are not available, it is your responsibility to investigate and come up with an accurate appraisal because the net worth of the decedent determines if the estate is subject to federal estate tax.
To begin, create an inventory to document your findings, and be sure to update it each time the value of an estate asset increases or decreases.
2. Pay the Taxes
As of 2011, trustees must file a tax return for any trust valued at more than $1 million. With the aid of an expert attorney, however, it is possible to reduce or even eliminate what can be a substantial amount of tax.
One of the most common ways to avoid this tax is through exemption trusts, which require extra oversight, and trustees must be extremely careful when it comes to filing special accountings and making particular transfers.
Failure to comply with stringent federal guidelines means you could inadvertently increase the tax obligations of the estate by a large sum.
Other tax matters that trustees must handle include filing the tax returns of the estate and the decedent. An experienced Arizona trust attorney can help you prepare the trust and avoid costly errors.
3. Provide Beneficiaries With the Right Notices
According to Arizona trust law, anyone who could possibly benefit from the trust can ask for copies of the trust document, and trustees are required to provide notice of this right. If the trust becomes irrevocable when the trustor dies, you must give notice to every beneficiary.
In cases where there is a will, you are also responsible for filing it in the trustor’s county Superior Court. Your final duty is to provide the County Assessor with a notice of death. Note: You must do this for every county in which the trustor owned property.
4. Fulfillment of Duties
As a trustee in Arizona, you are obligated to perform certain duties. If you fail to meet these obligations, you could lose your trustee status and be forced to repay the trust for damages. Here are some of the most basic duties:
- Follow the trust’s instructions and abide by its terms
- Act in the best interests of the beneficiaries
- Invest trust assets sensibly and cautiously
- Protect the trust through diversification of investments
- Treat each beneficiary equally with no bias
- Never use the assets of the trust for personal benefit
- Ensure trust property remains separate from personal property
- Keep detailed records and provide beneficiaries with reports
5. Be Aware of Your Powers
In Arizona, trustees possess certain powers that must be used in the best interests of the trust. Typically, you have the power to carry out every term of the trust unless it contravenes state law. Here are some of your powers as trustee:
- Investing on behalf of the trust
- Purchase and sale of assets
- Buying insurance
- Reasonable repairs to trust property
- Issuing payments to beneficiaries
If you have been named the trustee of an estate and need guidance when it comes to administration, get in touch with an experienced Arizona trust attorney today.