What state to engage a lawyer for trust administration?
May 10, 2021 3:50 AM   Subscribe

I live in Texas, my (surviving) parent and sibling live in Illinois. There is a living trust that has been set up, which I will become the successor trustee of in the event of my surviving parent's death, which is then intended to be divided 50/50 with my sibling. For many reasons, I expect interactions with my sibling regarding trust matters will be difficult or contested despite good faith on my part, and so I am interested in engaging an attorney immediately upon my parent's death to assist with these matters. If I engaged a lawyer to assist in trust administration, would I look for a lawyer in Texas or in Illinois?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (6 answers total)
Do you know which state the trust has been set up in? From the residence of your parent, probably Illinois, but you didn’t say specifically. In any case, you want a lawyer from the same state as the trust.
posted by LizardBreath at 3:55 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]

A little more specifically, the trust usually identifies the governing law, and that usually is where the settlor lived when it was created.
posted by yclipse at 4:27 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]

In the long run, the players are the trustee, the bank or brokerage that's holding the money and which sends out the checks, and an accountant who does the tax work including sending you a K-1 to report any income to the tax authorities. It's best if these folks are all in the same state.

Issues can arise with any of these players. The most persistent problem in our case is the accountant being late with the K-1s, but the weirdest was that the trustee died and no one was notified.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:38 AM on May 10

Seems like Illinois. Get a copy of the trust documents and confirm that it was created in Illinois and/or is subject to Illinois law. If yes, then I would go with Illinois. If your sibling starts a legal dispute about the trust, it would be almost certain to wind up in a court in Illinois.

You might inquire into who the lawyer is who set up the trust - this may be shown in the trust document and/or your parent may know. You could consider engaging that lawyer to represent you after the parent passes away - that lawyer will know the trust and will know what your parents wanted, which would all be helpful background.
posted by Mid at 8:06 AM on May 10 [1 favorite]

My understanding (as a parent with a similar trust) is that the trust automatically ends when your parent dies and two new trusts are created, one for each child, under the terms spelled out in the existing trust. This can be done by the lawyer who is handling the estate. I'm not sure of the roles of executor vs. successor trustee in making sure your mother's final debts are paid but if you are successors trustee in her death, I think you will be in that role long just long enough to get the trusts separated. The harder thing will be dealing with your sibling over the parts of your mother's estate that aren't in the trust - typically her personal effects which will need to be split but that's not part of your question.

Also, the more important job you may have a successor trustee is managing the trust in your mother's lifetime. One of the benefits of this trust structure is that she can make you a co-trustee and/or successor trustee in her lifetime and she will have your support in managing her finances as she ages and becomes less able to do herself.
posted by metahawk at 10:05 AM on May 10

Sorry to jump in again, but metahawk is mistaken. A split into more than one trust can be directed by the language of the trust, or it can be a power given to the successor trustee, but it is not automatic. Most trusts do provide that, at the death of the settlor, the trust becomes irrevocable.
posted by yclipse at 6:22 PM on May 10

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