“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
– Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910), Anna Karenina, Chapter 1, first line
“The earth belongs in usufruct to the living; the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by any individual ceases to be his when he himself ceases to be, and reverts to society.”
– Thomas Jefferson(Letter to James Madison, dated Sept. 6, 1789).
Deeds are vital, as for many people in Arizona and New Mexico, their home is the largest and most valuable asset they own. Any estate plan needs to address what will happen to this asset. Completing a deed transfer as part of an estate plan can help you avoid taxation, ensure that property is transferred to a loved one and help ensure that property is not impacted by claims from creditors.
At Morris Hall, PLLC, we offer the knowledge, skill and professional resources to help you protect all of your assets. If you have assets and real property that you need to protect, it makes sense to work with a law firm that can build a comprehensive plan, which includes investment planning, tax accounting and long-term care planning.
If You Become A Successor Trustee
If you have been named the successor trustee of a trust, we recommend that if possible, you talk with one of our lawyers while the original trustee is still alive. Our lawyers will explain the duties, responsibilities and obligations you will take on when you become the trustee. For trusts that we create for our clients, we also provide detailed instructions for the successor trustee.
Whether we created your trust or not, the attorneys of Morris Hall, PLLC, are available to help you administer the trust for which you are responsible. We never charge a fee to sit down with a successor trustee after a death has occurred and to outline what needs to be done. There are some elections to be made soon after a death has occurred, especially with assets held in retirement plans. If you don’t make the right elections, you and other beneficiaries could face tax or other consequences that cannot be corrected later.
If you serve as the successor trustee of a trust, you face many complicated responsibilities. You have to comply with the trust laws governing the trust, communicate with the beneficiaries and institutions holding trust assets, and meet all of the IRS and other tax requirements. By working with our attorneys, you can alleviate the burden of trust administration, while greatly reducing the chances of a dispute arising among beneficiaries because of conflicts of interest, misunderstandings or disagreements. Most importantly, we can help protect you from disputing beneficiaries and other potential challengers in your role as trustee.
The following are examples of the types of responsibilities our lawyers can help you perform:
Inventory and valuation of assets
Allocation of assets
Re-titling of assets
Determination of necessity of qualified disclaimers
Obtaining a taxpayer identification number
Filing the Form 706 estate tax return and other tax forms as necessary
Distribution of assets
Our lawyers can also help you protect trust assets from creditors, ex-spouses, long-term care expenses and tax consequences. By working with our attorneys, you are assured that every protection of your trust will be properly effectuated. You can count on our attorneys to help you carry out the terms and conditions of the trust, and to manage your obligations in the fiduciary capacity that is your responsibility.
Lawyers For Trust Administration
Setting up a living trust is the best way to avoid the costs and frustrations of probate upon death. Although administering a trust is far easier and less expensive than a probate action, there is always some administrative burden upon death.
At Morris Hall, PLLC, we differ from many estate planning law firms in that we not only create trusts, but we also do estate and trust administration. We assist successor trustees with the responsibilities they have upon the death of a trustee.
If you serve as a trustee of a trust or as a personal representative of a decedent’s estate, you face many complicated responsibilities. The attorneys at Morris Hall help address any issues that may arise in the course of trust administration or probate. Upon death, the following taxes may come into play: estate tax, inheritance tax, income tax, capital gains tax, generation-skipping tax and excise tax. If the administration of your trust is handled correctly, we can minimize or even avoid those taxes.
Protecting Your Beneficiaries
Properly created revocable trusts are implemented by husbands and wives or by single individuals for their benefit while they are living and for the benefit of their children or other beneficiaries after they die. While placing assets in a revocable living trust removes them from your personal name, the assets may still be subject to your creditors while you are alive and to taxes and creditor claims upon your death. When death occurs, our first goal as your attorneys is to protect your assets, first for a surviving spouse, and then for your beneficiaries.
When a spouse dies, our lawyers help the surviving spouse implement the decedent’s trust—essentially, the surviving spouse can put the decedent’s assets into Fort Knox and still have the key. She or he will be able to get at the assets, but nobody else can touch it.
When the surviving spouse dies, we set up beneficiary trusts so each of the beneficiaries has his or her own personal Fort Knox. When they need access to the assets, and when they are responsible enough to handle them, they can have the key.