One of the jobs of an Atlanta Georgia trust lawyer is to help clients choose the person who will be responsible for a trust that has been set up. The trustee has several very important jobs, and things will go smoother if he or she is aware of these responsibilities up front. Here is some good information that should be shared with a trustee in order to administer the trust with as little difficulty as possible when the time comes.
One Reason “Trust” Is So Important in the Word “Trustee”
In order to ensure that the trust administration goes according to plan, the trustee should review the document that set it out in the first place. It makes sense to do this while the person creating the trust is still alive so that you can talk about the true intentions behind the trust. Both parties may choose to sit down with the Atlanta trust lawyer in order to talk through any confusing points. When it comes time to administer the trust, the trustee will have valuable insight on what was originally intended and how to bring those goals about.
Along those same lines, it is the trustee’s responsibility to make sure that he or she is acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries. If there is a question about how best to manage the assets, the attorney can be brought in for advice and to make sure that decisions being made are in line with Georgia state and federal laws. For this reason, it’s imperative to choose a trustee who not only has good business sense but who is also extremely trustworthy. He or she should understand that the trust is not for personal gain and be able to withstand temptation to use the trust for his or her own benefit.
Keeping Track of the Trust
The trustee’s main focus should be to manage the assets of the trust in the most effective way possible. This may mean investing money in smart ways and also includes distributing funds to beneficiaries when appropriate. One of the easiest things the trustee can do to keep track of funds is to open a checking account for the trust. Any money that comes in or goes out of the trust can go through this checking account, creating an easy-to-see method for tracking income and expenses.
As an added safeguard, the trustee should provide an annual accounting of the trust to the beneficiaries. This allows them to understand how the trust is being managed. It may also be appropriate to provide this information to your Atlanta GA trust lawyer or other legal entity. Keeping in regular contact with the beneficiaries ensures that they are benefitting appropriately from the funds and also develops a relationship of trust between the parties involved.
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One of the many documents a trust attorney in the Atlanta area will encourage clients to put together is a living will. These documents have been considered incredibly important in both the legal and medical fields for 40+ years. A living will provides you with the opportunity to make your medical wishes known should you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions at the time. A living will often considers things like whether or not you want to be on life support and how you feel about doctors taking “extraordinary” measures to prolong your life.
There are a lot of positives to a living will. For example, it can take some of the burden off of your loved ones who are likely already in a state of shock over your incapacitation. In addition to worrying about your health and grieving over your condition, the people closest to you may also be called upon to make incredibly difficult decisions regarding your health care. Choosing to end life support for a spouse or parent is a heart-wrenching decision, and if you can take that burden from your loved one, then why wouldn’t you?
A recent Wall Street Journal article takes a deeper look into the usefulness of living wills, and some of their findings are contrary to popular belief about these documents. You can take a look at the article, “A New Look at Living Wills,” but some of the basic points made include:
- Living wills may be too “black and white,” while actual medical emergencies often fall into a “gray area.”
- Doctors have a limited ability to predict a patient’s outcome, so it is difficult to use their best guesses as a measure against which to determine if life support should be withdrawn or not.
- In addition to doctors and patients, ethicists are weighing in on the usefulness of living wills, and many of them are leaning away from using them at all.
One of the biggest problems with a living will is that the wording can be rather vague. This can be especially true if you use a fill-in-the-blank document you find online, rather than working with a knowledgeable trust attorney in Atlanta. In order to make your living will as helpful to your loved ones and medical staff as possible, it may be a good idea to be very thorough and to define what you mean by things like “quality of life” and “reasonable chance.”
Many people are moving toward these more comprehensive living wills, although it is certainly difficult to anticipate every situation that can arise. According to the WSJ articles, some people are now foregoing the living will altogether and opting instead to have their estate planning attorney assist them in naming a health care agent with whom you discuss your views and values before leaving the decision-making responsibilities in his or her hands.
If this is something you would like to explore further in your particular situation, or you have further questions about creating a living will here in Atlanta, please feel free to give our Marietta estate planning and elder law firm a call at 770-425-6060 and ask to schedule a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session with the mention of this article.