The Proper Approach to Trust Administration in Ohio, Specifically Cuyahoga County

There is a certain amount of responsibility that goes along with wills or trust administration in Cuyahoga County.  I have recently had more trouble getting people to understand that there are no automatic events. I often hear people say that they have a trust and so they assume that their assets pass automatically to their heirs. This is far from the truth. Nothing – particularly in the law — happens automatically. Processes need to occur. For this reason, it is vital to choose someone very trustworthy to take on the important role of administrator, trustee, or executor.

While some individuals will likely see it as an honor to be chosen, it can also be quite a burden, so it is highly recommended that the potential trustee be contacted in advance and asked if he or she is willing and able to take on the role. If you find yourself in charge of trust administration or are in the process of trying to choose an appropriate trustee for your own estate, here are some very important considerations which should top your list:

  1. The person in charge of trust administration must be able to be impartial.  This means that family feuds, sibling rivalries, and other real or imagined slights cannot be allowed to interfere with the fair and honest administration of the trust.
  2. The trust assets should be insured, and if they are lost or destroyed due to the trustees’ negligence, he or she can be held liable.  It is also the trustee’s responsibility to file and pay taxes for the trust and take care of other trust-related expenses.
  3. He or she is responsible for ensuring that the trust produces income.  This means the money can’t just sit in a checking account; rather, it needs to be invested wisely so it generates income for the beneficiaries.  The trustee also distributes this income to the beneficiaries.
  4. Speaking of investments, many states require the trustee to make prudent choices when it comes to those investments.  It is usually helpful to speak with an attorney or financial advisor in order to make wise decisions and to find out what specific regulations apply here in Cuyahoga County.  In fact, it is the trustee’s responsibility to use his or her best judgment to choose an investment agent to handle the delegation of investments if the trustee isn’t qualified to choose them on his or her own.
  5. The beneficiaries of the trust must be informed of the activity of the trust.  This includes informing them of the trust and the trustee’s role in the trust, supplying required documentation when requested, and providing all beneficiaries with an annual statement of the accounts.
  6. The person in charge of trust administration must be able to avoid conflicts of interest and cannot make decisions which favor the trustee over other beneficiaries.

Proper administration in Cuyahoga County trust or probate requires a combination of personal integrity, business savvy and interpersonal skills.  When choosing a trustee or accepting the position, it is a good idea to speak with a Northeast Ohio trust lawyer to ensure that you fully understand the responsibilities that accompany the position.