Like many people, your estate plan may include a number of diverse documents and strategies. Collectively, these documents and strategies provide protection for you and your assets while you are alive and ensure that your loved ones are financially taken care of after your death. One common inclusion in a comprehensive estate plan is a family wealth trust, or FWT. If you are contemplating the addition of a FWT to your estate plan, one question you may have is “ Who is the trustee of my family wealth trust? ”
People frequently hear the “wealth” as part of a “family wealth trust” and make the mistake of assuming you need to have an extremely large estate to benefit from one. The reality is, however, that the name is somewhat misleading. A family need not be wealthy in order to benefit from a family wealth trust. A FWT is simply an estate planning tool that can be used by anyone who wishes to safeguard assets for future generations. Moreover, a FWT can protect assets while you are alive by keeping them out of reach of creditors. Assets held in a FWT may also be protected from a beneficiaries spouse in the event of a divorce or even from claims against your estate by creditors after your death. In short, a FWT may be an advantageous addition to any estate plan, regardless of the size of the estate or the value of the estate assets.
If you do elect to include a family wealth trust in your estate plan you will need to appoint a trustee. Your trustee will be responsible for managing and growing the trust assets. Additional duties and responsibilities of your trustee include:
Keeping detailed trust records
Communicating with trust beneficiaries
Following and abiding by the trust terms
Understanding the current state and federal laws as they relate to the trust
Preparing and filing trust taxes
Disbursing trust assets to beneficiaries
Making discretionary decisions regarding trust assets
As you can see, the duties and responsibilities of your trustee are numerous and varied. Given the importance of your trustee, care should be taken when deciding who to appoint. Considerations should be given to appointing a professional trustee instead of someone personally known to you. Not only does a professional trustee have the knowledge, experience, and time needed to effectively administer the trust, but appointing a professional trustee eliminates the possibility of conflicts arising within the family as so often happens when a family member is named as trustee.
If you have additional questions or concerns about trustees, family wealth trusts, or estate planning in general, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.