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The Merriman Law Firm, P.L.L.C.
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Trust administration shares many similarities with probate and estate administration, but significant differences do exist. Trusts are non-probate assets, meaning that they are not administered through probate and estate administration proceedings. However, depending on the type of trust and the terms of the trust, the trustee may have various responsibilities with regard to the probate and estate administration proceeding. For example, the trustee of a decedent’s revocable living trust is responsible for the payment of the expenses of administration and the claims of creditors where the probate and estate assets are insufficient to pay them.
The administration of revocable living trusts that become irrevocable on the death of the settlor (the person who creates or funds the trust) are typically administered alongside the estate. In fact, oftentimes the person or entity who serves as the personal representative of the estate is also the successor trustee of the trust. Where a decedent has created a revocable living trust, he or she will typically have a “pour over” will that leaves the “residue” of the estate to the trustee of the trust. The dispositive provisions of the trust then govern the disposition of the assets of the trust, including those assets that were originally in the estate. At The Merriman Law Firm, P.L.L.C., we assist successor trustees in the administration of revocable living trusts.
Irrevocable trusts are of a different nature than revocable trusts. While revocable trusts can generally be amended, modified, or revoked by the settlor (the person who creates or funds the trust), irrevocable trusts cannot be amended, modified, or revoked. Irrevocable trusts are commonly used in tax planning and asset protection scenarios. In many situations, a decedent will direct the assets of his revocable living trust to be held “in further trust” for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. These “subtrusts” are typically irrevocable in nature. At The Merriman Law Firm, P.L.L.C., we counsel and represent trustees in the administration of irrevocable trusts.
Where a high net-worth individual passes away, his “gross estate” may be subject to the federal estate and generation-skipping taxes. For purposes of federal gift, estate, and generation-skipping taxes, the term “gross estate” is used, and refers not only to assets of the “probate estate,” but also to assets in certain trusts, jointly owned assets, assets for which there is a designated beneficiary, certain gifts in which the donor (the person who gives the gift) retained an interest, and various other assets. Robin D. Merriman II, J.D., LL.M., B.C.S., has experience assisting clients with estates of or trusts settled by deceased high-net worth individuals, which includes assisting them in completing Federal Estate Tax Returns (IRS Form 706’s).