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How Long Will it Take to Settle a Trust After the Trustmaker Dies?

Beneficiaries Who Get Along vs. Beneficiaries Who Don't

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How long it will take to settle a Revocable Living Trust after the Trustmaker dies depends on many factors:

Where does the successor Trustee live?

With modern technology, where the Successr Trustee lives in relation to where the attorney assisting with settling the trust is located shouldn't be a big deal. But practically speaking, the distance between the Successor Trustee and the attorney does matter. When I work with Successor Trustees located close by, they can come into to office with little notice. When I work with Successor Trustees who live out of town or in another state, quick meetings just can't happen. For all practical purposes, the closer the Successor Trustee is to the attorney, the more quickly things will get gone.

How many beneficiaries are there, and where do they live?

For all practical purposes, the more trust beneficiaries involved, and the farther away they live from the attorney assisting with settling the trust, the longer the trust administration will take. This is simply a function of the time it takes to send documents to, and receive documents back from, multiple beneficiaries.

How much will the beneficiaries disagree?

It's highly unlikely that two beneficiaries will agree on everything let alone three or four or more. Some beneficiaries may even hire their own attorneys to monitor the trust administration, and these types of attorneys tend to nit pick at every single thing that the Successor Trustee does. Suffice it to say that the more the beneficiaries disagree, the longer settling the trust will take.

Is there going to be a trust contest?

A trust contest is a legal proceeding that's initiated to invalidate a Revocable Living Trust after the Trustmaker dies. Trust contests are based on four arguments: (1) the trust agreement wasn't signed with the appropriate legal formalities; (2) the trust agreement was procured by fraud; (3) the trust agreement was procured under duress and undue influence; and/or (4) the Trustmaker lacked mental capacity to make the trust agreement. Suffice it to say that if a trust contest is involved, then settling the trust will continue for a long time.

Is the Trustmaker's estate taxable?

If so, then the taxable estate is most likely going to take longer to settle than a nontaxable one. Why? Because the Successor Trustee won't be able to terminate the trust and make final distributions until a closing letter is received from the state department of revenue and/or IRS. And these days I've been waiting anywhere from 6-8 months after filing an estate tax return with the IRS before receiving any type of response.

How complicated are the trust assets?

If the trust is comprised of a house and a bank account, then dealing with these assets should be relatively simple. But if the trust is comprised of a house, a bank account and an interest in the family business, then the administration of the trust can get complicated.

Keeping all of these factors in mind, if everyone gets along, the trust assets aren't complicated and the Trustmaker's estate is nontaxable, then settling the trust should only take a month or two. But if not, then settling the trust can drag on for several months or even years.

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