Need input on your experience with handling a parent’s trust, any feedback on handling it ourselves vs. retaining an attorney? - AgingCare.com

Need input on your experience with handling a parent’s trust, any feedback on handling it ourselves vs. retaining an attorney?

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My FIL has passed and my husband is the successor trustee. We’d planned on getting a trust attorney to handle the trust paperwork and such. I’ve heard it can take some months to get it all done. His brother, however, thinks they should do it themselves. My gut feeling is we’re in for a lot of work and time we don’t have. I need some feedback on how long it took for you to get trusts settled, how involved was it to do yourselves, did you find it was better to retain an attorney? Thanks in advance.

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We went with a lawyer since we wanted to "do it right". Knowing what I know now, I would lean towards DIY. Not a trust per se but if the goal is to avoid probate and shield assets from medicaid recovery then I think it would have been simpler, cheaper and with far fewer headaches for us to have done it ourselves. Obviously it depends on your situation. But with a simple house and bank accounts situation, now days it's simple to set up a transfer on death deed or a medicaid exempt transfer under the right conditions on the house and beneficiaries on the bank accounts to avoid probate. A transfer on death deed is analogous to listing beneficiaries on a bank account. In many states, unless it goes to probate there is no medicaid recovery.
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We did a combination of work ourselves and hiring an attorney. Meet with the attorney to see what has to be done, and then decide what you are willing to do yourself. If you don't want to do the grunt work, a paralegal will do the work at a reduced fee from the attorney's hourly rate.
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One factor in this potential hot mess as to need to do something NOW, is does the “trust” have an income source to allow trust to continue to be in existence? Like this a more traditional trust (M+) that has investments that feed income into the trust regularly and pay any trust asset related expenses. If so ALL those investments will need to be pegged for value, and that is not simple, like real estate will need appraisals done. If there are timed investments, those have to be evaluated as to costs of surrender vs. timing out (this is a potential sticky as an heir can object to surrender as they loose $).  Not a DIY ever, imo.

But ifs a more a single source “trust” - like a house - just where is the $ coming from to maintain it? It seems that often elders are sold the concept of placing assets in a trust with SS or retirement income used to support trust costs, then they die and pffft no $ to even pay taxes. So how long till it defunds? These type of so called trusts need to get defunded ASAP imo. Unless your very savvy at the courthouse, not a DIY. 

And if there’s anything that was inadvertently left out of the “trust”, probate will need to be opened. This is VERY important. There’s a poster on AC whose dad left assets out.... so probate needed. Again unless your savvy at the courthouse, not a DIY.

Really I’d suggest you contact the law firm that did the trust to get a consultation as to defund & do distribution properly and let them do it. Time to wrap everything up totally interdependent on what the trust assets are. Good luck with that BIL too. 
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Linda, it really depends on the complexity of the trust and the background of the individuals. Is the BIL one of those "know it all" types? the ones who say we but mean you? Do the family members have financial and legal background? Do you have the time? It's amazing how other people find it very easy to co-opt the time that *I* have for "just one more thing".
I find that any time money and families are involved that it's best to get professionals involved. I'm a CPA and I asked my sister to have my mother's CPA do her taxes and we hired a lawyer to guide us through probate. It cost some money, but we have a brother and his wife who are good people but entitled thinkers.
SIL wanted my mother's house deed re-titled after mom's death before any disposition discussed to "protect my brother's interests". From me and my sis?? Professionals are not involved in the fray when (not if) problems arise. And with money they ALWAYS do.
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I would get a lawyer involved. I am in Canada and my brother and I are trying to sort out a trust that was mismanaged. It is going to cost us many thousands of dollars. If the original trustee had sought legal advice we would not be in this situation.
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Does the trust have a financial advisor who originally drew up the trust? His name was listed on every monthly statement. Start there and call. My mom and aunt had 2 trusts together. Her advisor brought paperwork to add siblings as beneficiaries when my aunt died. That part went smoothly. The advisor will have any records if beneficiaries exist.
If not, then you need to find the will and if there is none then you will have to go through probate.
If you find any confusing roadblocks then you should seek legal help.
As far as the time question, it took very little.  Probate however can take several months. Depending on the size of the estate and your lack of time will help you make the choice.
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