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Living Trust Trustee Question
Old 01-16-2018, 03:27 PM   #1
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Living Trust Trustee Question

Not sure if this is the right forum or not but here it goes. Have any of you been the Trustee or Executor of your parents estate?

I'm the Trustee of my elderly mothers Living Trust and she's explained to me the basic content of the trust but I haven't actually asked to read the Living Trust papers themselves simply because I didn't wish her to think I'm overly interested in her worth or who was getting what, etc....

It's fairly apparent that all of us siblings are getting an equal amount of the estate so that's not my concern but the other day a sibling asked if I had read it and questioned whether his spouse would get his "share" if he passed away before my mother. To be honest I don't know what the answer is or if my mother has even thought about surviving spouse's like that. I'm also married so I guess I should also have the same concern.

I guess my question is whether or not it's reasonable to ask to read the Living Trust paper work while she's still alive. And if the paper work doesn't cover surviving spouses do I ask her about that too? I assume it's better to deal with this now then down the road when it's to late.

Thanks for any suggestions or thoughts.
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Old 01-16-2018, 03:32 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Drake3287 View Post
Not sure if this is the right forum or not but here it goes. Have any of you been the Trustee or Executor of your parents estate?

I'm the Trustee of my elderly mothers Living Trust and she's explained to me the basic content of the trust but I haven't actually asked to read the Living Trust papers themselves simply because I didn't wish her to think I'm overly interested in her worth or who was getting what, etc....

It's fairly apparent that all of us siblings are getting an equal amount of the estate so that's not my concern but the other day a sibling asked if I had read it and questioned whether his spouse would get his "share" if he passed away before my mother. To be honest I don't know what the answer is or if my mother has even thought about surviving spouse's like that. I'm also married so I guess I should also have the same concern.

I guess my question is whether or not it's reasonable to ask to read the Living Trust paper work while she's still alive. And if the paper work doesn't cover surviving spouses do I ask her about that too? I assume it's better to deal with this now then down the road when it's to late.

Thanks for any suggestions or thoughts.
I would ask to read the trust documents and if the surviving spouse issue is not clear, then I would ask her about that and get her thoughts. It's best to clear this up while she is alive.
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Old 01-16-2018, 03:37 PM   #3
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I would ask to read the trust documents and if the surviving spouse issue is not clear, then I would ask her about that and get her thoughts. It's best to clear this up while she is alive.
+1

You don't have to agree with the choice of beneficiary, but you need to understand it. I am trustee for my mother's living trust, she is still alive, and when my siblings ask about it I suggest they ask her.
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Old 01-16-2018, 03:44 PM   #4
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Depending on who drew up the document some trusts can be filled with legalese that makes them difficult to decipher by a layperson. I'm not saying your mom's trust document is like that, but be preared for some study, online searching, and even consultation with an attorney.
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Old 01-16-2018, 03:44 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Drake3287 View Post

It's fairly apparent that all of us siblings are getting an equal amount of the estate so that's not my concern but the other day a sibling asked if I had read it and questioned whether his spouse would get his "share" if he passed away before my mother. To be honest I don't know what the answer is or if my mother has even thought about surviving spouse's like that. I'm also married so I guess I should also have the same concern.
+1 along with the prior responses.

I would add that the rules of distribution are pretty fundamental and I would be surprised if the trust agmt does not address it.

(disclaimer: this is not legal advice.)
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Old 01-16-2018, 04:08 PM   #6
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+1

You don't have to agree with the choice of beneficiary, but you need to understand it. I am trustee for my mother's living trust, she is still alive, and when my siblings ask about it I suggest they ask her.
I agree that if it important to your sibling, that the ball is in his court. Absent specific language, it is much more common for trust's to leave inheritances to lineal descendant.......it would go to your brother's children, not to his wife.
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Old 01-16-2018, 04:14 PM   #7
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This is important; get it cleared up soon.

My mother's will specified that estate was to be divided among her living children. Of course it was assumed that would mean all of them, and no more thought was given. Unfortunately my sister died not too long before my Mom, the will was never rewritten (because it never occurred to my mother to do so, I'm sure she never thought about the wording) and as a result my sister's family was cut completely out of the will (her surviving husband and minor children) . This was surely not my mother's intent.

(Of course, my siblings and I did the right thing and divided the estate up equally, including my deceased sister's family. But it's always better to have the actual intent written into the will.)
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Old 01-16-2018, 04:22 PM   #8
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You should be able to gain access to the trust 'abstract' from where ever it was drawn up once you prove your role.
An abstract is a shortened version of a Living Trust document, leaving out certain details without revealing specifics that you want to keep private.

Mine stipulates that if my wife preceeds me, my estate is divided equally between our children and if one or more of my children precede me, then their progeny inherit their part. I also defined progeny as children born of a lawful union/marriage so that no 'love child' would show up making a claim on the estate. It is also stipulated that any of the heirs challenge or dispute the will, they are cut out.
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Old 01-16-2018, 04:29 PM   #9
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Per Stirpes. An important term to understand when dealing with wills and similar.

It is important that the words reflect the intent. Especially when situations have changed. Things like divorces, estranged children, re-marriage, etc. it is an important discussion to have with your heirs. Anything that needs to be interpreted, or that gets challenged, will resulted in lawyer bills and/or hurt feelings.

We probably need to review our wills again. There has been a marriage and a significant kinda other added within the clan. We need to make a decision as to the distribution of wealth (if any) to the sorta significant other, and what happens if our child predeceases said sorta significant. Also, what happens if there is a divorce on the other side of the family tree.
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Old 01-16-2018, 04:40 PM   #10
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Yes, I was the trustee for my parents estate and the only way to know these things is to read the trust and the will which is usually part of the trust.
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Old 01-16-2018, 05:11 PM   #11
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Thanks for everyone's suggestions and thoughts. Sounds like I need to make plans to read the documents and have any question's I have answered.

Like others commented about, I'm sure my mother's "intent" is to have the surviving spouse get the deceased siblings share but who knows whats actually written. Certainly has the making for a big family fight when you have as many siblings as I do.

Thanks again.
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Old 01-16-2018, 05:14 PM   #12
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I think it would be fair for you to ask to read the trust so you know what is in it, what you would be getting yourself into as a trustee and how these provisions work and if they are spelled out clearly and reflect what she wants.

Also, you may not yet be a trustee. IIRC for my parent's living trusts, each of them was the grantor, beneficiary and trustee while they are alive.... then when my Dad died my sister, mother and I became co-trustees and Mom became the beneficiary.

But Mom is still the sole trustee of her living trust since she is still alive.
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Old 01-16-2018, 05:15 PM   #13
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Thanks for everyone's suggestions and thoughts. Sounds like I need to make plans to read the documents and have any question's I have answered.

Like others commented about, I'm sure my mother's "intent" is to have the surviving spouse get the deceased siblings share but who knows whats actually written. Certainly has the making for a big family fight when you have as many siblings as I do.

Thanks again.
Are there children in the that family? If so her intent could be to leave the money in trust for the children, to avoid the money potentially going to a second husband. Which is why IMHO it trusts/wills should be written so that the spouse gets the money only if there are no children of the marriage.
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Old 01-16-2018, 05:18 PM   #14
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I guess my question is whether or not it's reasonable to ask to read the Living Trust paper work while she's still alive. And if the paper work doesn't cover surviving spouses do I ask her about that too? I assume it's better to deal with this now then down the road when it's to late.
It is far better to deal with this now. Down the road will almost certainly be too late.

I'm of the opinion that a Will or Trust should contain no surprises. And everyone named in the Will or Trust, as well as everyone who might have reason to believe they could be in the Will or Trust, should know what it says. This could avoid fighting and disappointment later.

I'd urge your Mom to gather everyone and either give them a copy or read it to them. Then talk it over. You might want to suggest something along those lines to her.

My parents asked me if I would be a trustee (along with my sister) for their family trust. I agreed to do it, and asked if I could read the trust documents. It turns out that I'm not actually a trustee, but a contingent trustee where my sister is the primary. That's okay by me, but it could have been very awkward if I insisted that I was a trustee without verifying that fact. I'm glad that I wouldn't be trying to make decisions that were not mine to make.
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Old 01-16-2018, 05:20 PM   #15
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You mentioned concern over looking like you wanted to see what the potential amounts were; my trust doesn't mention amounts. I gave the lawyer rough figures but they're not in the documents.

A good attorney would have covered all the potential twists- what if a child dies? What if they divorce? etc.- but there's no harm at all in wanting to make sure that those contingencies are provided for the way your mother intended.
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Old 01-16-2018, 05:26 PM   #16
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Per Stirpes. An important term to understand when dealing with wills and similar.

It is important that the words reflect the intent. Especially when situations have changed. Things like divorces, estranged children, re-marriage, etc. it is an important discussion to have with your heirs. Anything that needs to be interpreted, or that gets challenged, will resulted in lawyer bills and/or hurt feelings.

We probably need to review our wills again. There has been a marriage and a significant kinda other added within the clan. We need to make a decision as to the distribution of wealth (if any) to the sorta significant other, and what happens if our child predeceases said sorta significant. Also, what happens if there is a divorce on the other side of the family tree.
If I am not mistaken, per stirpes means it goes to the children of the person but not the spouse...


To the OP, I dealt with trust & wills when I first graduated from college... I never saw one where any of the money went to a spouse when the person died... it either went to children (if any) or was distributed to the rest of the people in trust/will....


Edit to add... I would want to read it so I knew what it said and make sure that matched up with what your mom says she wants... IOW, read to understand and then ask if what you understand is what she expected it to say....
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Old 01-16-2018, 05:45 PM   #17
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Typically it does NOT go to the spouse. It would only do that if it used plain language that said that or if it gave the child a "power of appointment" to appoint his/her share but that would normally be only if the child died after mom and thus had a vested interest in the trust.

It is not uncommon to ask to read your parent's trust. This is especially true if mom has brought the topic up with you. Maybe she wants you to show interest!?
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Old 01-16-2018, 06:00 PM   #18
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The other reason to know what is says is to make sure that it makes sense. Mother had a revocable living trust.

Here was my concern: My sister had a son who was on SSI. Mother was fed up with sister so provided for the son in the trust. I knew that the son was on SSI but Mother evidently didn't. When I told mother that if he received sister's share of her trust he would lose his SSI. That was not her intent, she wanted him to use the money as he saw fit (blow it all on wine, women and song if he wished). The trust was amended to provide for an account in a special needs trust for his benefit. After the paper work was done to set up the trust she tweaked his max interest to reflect the cost of the trust administration and established a max which was actually close to an equal share at the end.

Sister was not happy with that trust and threatened to challenge it. Mom's lawyer said fine because the assets would revert to her estate and the will expressly made no provision for sister or her son.

As a trustee you need to verify that the assets have actually been titled in the exact name of the trust.
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Old 01-16-2018, 07:19 PM   #19
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Any trust will have trustee to execute the trust. But they also need a secondary trustee of you are unable to process the duties of even worse die before Mom.

And there need to be beneficiaries, and secondary beneficiaries If something happens to one of more of the primary beneficiaries.

My aunt died and split her estate 4 ways--disabled son and 3 nieces/nephews. Her son died before she did and the estate was finally split 3 ways. And he had a wife or children, the will wouldn't have probated smoothly.
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Old 01-16-2018, 07:40 PM   #20
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In my experience drafting and administering wills and trusts, it is quite unusual for a parent to provide for the spouse of the child as a contingent beneficiary if predeceased by the child. Usually the grandchildren are contingent beneficiaries. Generally they wish to follow bloodlines and not risk having their property pass outside the family.
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