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Robin Williams’ Trusts Call for Conversation About Trust Privacy

August 25, 2014

Filed under: Estate Administration,Probate,Trustees,Trusts,Wills — Tags: — Neel Shah @ 6:26 pm

The loss of Robin Williams last week certainly sent ripples across the country, but it also highlights an important topic for your estate plans: privacy. Within a matter of hours after news outlets started reporting his death, details about the trusts documents he had established for his three children started emerging as well. The prime sources for these details? Gossip websites and tabloid. One site even published a 35-page document detailing Williams’ irrevocable trusts established for his children.

Shortly after these documents, one of which dated back to 1989, hit the media, Williams’ publicist responded that neither of them were accurate with regards to the former actor’s current estate plan. What’s most disturbing, however, is that trusts are most often used instead of wills because of the veil of privacy they offer.

So how did Williams’ documents, albeit outdated, end up in the public eye? The trustee of both the trusts had requested a co-trustee successor be appointed back in 2008, when the originally designated individual passed away. All of the public sharing of the trust document could easily have been avoided simply using trust protectors, like an accountant, trusted friend, or attorney who retains the power to appoint or remove trustees. To learn more about ensuring that your trusts are protected privately, contact our offices at info@lawesq.net or via phone at 732-521-9455 to get started.

Robin Williams’ Trusts Call for Conversation About Trust Privacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: emilystepp.com

Tips for Choosing a Trustee

June 9, 2014

Filed under: Trustees,Trusts — Neel Shah @ 3:32 pm

Don’t overlook the importance of selecting a proper trustee for your estate planning. Regardless of the type of trust you are planning to use, you need to ensure that you have selected an appropriate individual. In many cases, trustees have a great deal of power and authority and it is not a decision you should take lightly as a business owner or individual.

Tips for Choosing a Trustee
(Photo Credit: startingovertoronto.com)

The gut reaction for many people is to select a child as the trustee. There can be negative ramifications of doing this by dividing the family in the future or by giving authority to someone who hasn’t received the proper advice and education about it. Instead, you may want to give some thought to using a professional individual. Attorneys and accountants, for example, can serve as trustees. They are more likely to understand their responsibilities and bring unique experience to table, but it can be expensive. There are, however, many situations where asking a professional to take control simply makes sense.

As an estate planning client, you should be aware that you can give out powers for beneficiaries to revoke trustee powers and replace him or her. If the trustee is overbearingly restrictive on distributions, for example, the beneficiaries have some options. If there’s no removal power outlined in the trust and the trustee won’t step down, they may be headed to court. As the creator of the trust, you can even outline how often the beneficiaries can exert this power so that it’s not abused. To learn more about trust development and execution, email us at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455.

Florida Court Ruling Provides Guidance For Those Using Trust For Asset Protection

March 6, 2014

Filed under: Asset Protection,Beneficiaries,Estate Planning,Trustees,Trusts — Neel Shah @ 4:30 pm

A recent appellate court ruling in Florida gives former spouses the legal grounds to take funds from a type of trust that was thought to be unavailable to them.

State flag of Florida

State flag of Florida (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Discretionary trusts are set up by the wealthy to give a trustee the authority to make or not make distributions from the trust. But the ruling late last year in Florida gives ex-spouses and the children of beneficiaries more leeway to gain access to those funds in certain circumstances.

However, estate planning experts are divided over whether this ruling establishes a precedent for other states, according to an article on fa-mag.com.

In this case, Bruce Berlinger challenged a lower court ruling that allowed his ex-wife, Roberta Casselberry, to obtain funds from a discretionary trust fund after he stopped paying her $16,000 a month alimony. The trust had been paying the money directly to her and not to him.

Usually, a creditor may not garnish funds in a discretionary trust if the trustee does not make the distributions to the beneficiary. In this case, the court ruling the ex-spouse was deemed to be an “exception creditor “and could seek distributions from the trust to satisfy her alimony requirements.

About 30 states have some form of “exception creditor” provision in their trust codes.

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When You Lose Trust in the Trustee: How A Beneficiary Can Enforce A Trust

August 7, 2013

Filed under: Beneficiaries,Estate Planning,Trustees,Trusts — Neel Shah @ 9:00 am

As a recent article explains, sometimes trustees do not do what they are supposed to. Sometimes trustees make mistakes in carrying out their duties while other times, they knowingly fail to comply with the terms of the trust. If you are the beneficiary of a trust, there may be some things you can do to ensure that the trustee follows the terms of the trust.

Because a trust is created by a legal document, each trust contains rights and duties that are legally enforceable. If a trustee has not followed the terms of the trust, he or she is considered to be in breach of his or her duties. There are several steps a beneficiary should take when he or she believes that the trustee of his or her trust is in breach.

The first step that a beneficiary should take is to review the trust documents. The beneficiary should be certain of what the terms of the trust are before he or she confronts the trustee concerning an alleged breach. Often, discrepancies over the behavior of a trustee are based on misunderstandings about what the trust documents actually say.

If you have consulted the trust documents and still believe that your trustee is in breach of his or her duties, speak with the trustee first. A majority of trust issues can be resolved through proper communication. If communication does not solve your problem, review the trust document to determine what the procedure for replacing trustees is. Although each trust is different, many trusts contain a provision that allows for the relatively easy replacement of a trustee.