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Articles Tagged with elder law

12 Point Summary of Florida Successor Trustee Duties

Note: Trust administration requires strict compliance with the trust terms and often analysis of complex tax requirements. A trustee is a fiduciary and is held to a high standard of care under Florida law. If you are a successor trustee, we can help. It is important that you follow the advice of an experienced Trust Administration Attorney to avoid or reduce estate taxes or income taxes and to protect yourself against personal liability. Not only are the expenses of an attorney and CPA typically considered routine trust expenses, but failure to utilize such services can expose the trustee to personal liability.

  1. Show Loyalty To All Trust Beneficiaries. Even if the successor trustee is himself a beneficiary, as trustee he has the duty of loyalty to all the other beneficiaries, including the remaindermen. Remaindermen are beneficiaries who do not have a current interest in the trust income or principal, but have a future interest in the trust.

By: Jacqueline R. Bowden and Phillip B. Rarick, Miami Estate Planning Attorneys

A power of attorney is a legal instrument you may give to a trusted family member or friend  (commonly called your attorney-in-fact or agent) to manage your financial affairs and act on your behalf. The person creating the document is referred to as the principal. A Durable Power of Attorney (DPA) differs as it remains effective after the principal becomes incapacitated. In order for a DPA to remain effective it must include language stating that subsequent incapacity will not affect the powers of your agent.

Note:  Florida’s Durable Power of Attorney law was completely rewritten effective October 1, 2011.   See New Florida Durable Power of Attorney Law Makes Sweeping Changes.  If you have a DPA dated prior to October, 2011, we strongly recommend that you update your DPA.

Within the past 10 years, the Living Trust has replaced the Will as the best way to care for you and your loved ones because it can avoid the fees, cost, and stress of court intervention in the event of mental incapacity or death.  Properly funded, a living trust can help you keep legal control in your family or with persons you trust and avoid having a judge – an unknown third person –  make decisions about your personal affairs.

A living trust is simply detailed, legally binding instructions to care for you and your family.  There are three key players in a trust.  First, the Trustmaker or grantor; this is the person who makes the trust.  Second, the Trustee, whose job is to follow the instructions of the trust exactly and to the spirit of the trust.  The third role are the Beneficiaries.  The Trustee’s fiduciary duties run like a laser beam to the beneficiaries:  every penny of the Trust must be used in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

Initially, you can act in all three roles in your living trust:  You can be the trustmaker, trustee and beneficiary.  Your spouse, children, or other loved ones can also be beneficiaries.

______ #1.      Trust Funding. After we signed your trust, we reviewed the funding of your trust and I gave you detailed Funding Notes.  Have you followed up on these instructions?   Funding is simply the transfer of your assets into your trust.    It is a good idea to annually review the funding of your trust. It is also advisable to annually sign a new assignment of assets into your trust, that will help sweep into the trust assets acquired to date.

______#2.       Successor Trustee. This is the person you have appointed to step into your legal shoes if you become incapacitated – in other words, one of the most important decisions you can make. Who have you appointed to take charge if you are incapacitated? What is the order of succession of trustees who will take over management of your financial affairs if you are unable to do so?    If you have any question whatsoever about your order of succession, please call the office.

______#3.       Transitions. Has there been a marriage, divorce, or separation of anyone named in your will or trust?    Has there been a birth or adoption of a child or grandchild?  If so, your estate plan may need to be amended.

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