THERE ARE PERHAPS NO MORE DELICATE MATTERS IN LIFE THAN DECISIONS ABOUT HOW A PERSON’S ASSETS ARE DISTRIBUTED AND BY WHOM. It is often left in the hands of a family member to act as a fiduciary, but the responsibilities of handling investments, an estate and other planned giving can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to get caught up in the emotional aspects. For this reason, individuals are seeing the value in an independent trust company to provide these services, working in concert with the client’s attorney, accountant and other appointed professionals to follow through on their wishes.
Garden State Trust Company, an independent trust company with a local office in Cherry Hill and three others in New Jersey, was founded in 2008 and offers a team of professionals who collectively have over 150 years’ experience in the industry. Clients benefit from their wealth management services and unlike larger corporate banks, the company can cater to clients with a wide range of financial assets.
“Larger money center banks and boutique financial service firms often require a minimum of $1 million for their clients,” says Sean Rice, CTFA, vice president and trust officer at Garden State Trust Company. “We have a l ocal customer service-oriented culture. That’s hard to find in this industry. I live and work in Cherry Hill. If a client calls, they get me directly—they aren’t patched through to an 800-number. That’s important for clients because we should be accessible for regular communication.”
Rice spoke with Suburban Family about the role of an independent trust company for both estates and trusts and the various options available.
Why would someone want to have an outside party instead of a family member act as a trustee or executor?
The role of an executor comes into play 10 days after a loved one’s death, and the process of settling the estate can take as little as six to nine months, or as long as two-plus years. If someone has named an adult child or family member to handle these matters, they are often busy with their own job and kids and have never served as an executor before. Many people don’t want to put that burden on their loved ones so naming a professional shifts that burden. We gladly will work with a family member in a co-executor capacity, whereby the individual is still involved with the estate settlement process, but we are able to handle most of the heavy lifting, so-to-speak.
As a trustee, there are so many different types of trusts, many with complex sets of rules and regulations. Naming a family member in that role can get complicated. If you name one of your children as trustee for his or her sibling, after your death their relationship is not just as siblings anymore. We have a lot of experience in managing trusts and being that neutral third party with no emotional ties.
Are revocable living trusts one of the most common types of trusts and what is your role?
They are a very common and valuable estate planning tool. They are just as they sound: these are trusts that are created during your lifetime, rather than through a will. So long as the grantor (the owner of the assets) has the mental capacity, changes can continue to be made to this trust, hence the term “revocable.” As professional trustees we provide a key benefit of managing assets and offering assistance with personal matters such as paying bills or coordinating care, without interruption, in the event the grantor becomes physically or mentally incapacitated. There might not be many family members willing or able to serve as power of attorney, or there might be a higher level of financial management needed, and we can perform that role.
What are the advantages of a trustee who can manage a special needs trust?
Special needs trusts were only first created in 1993 and they are now becoming more widely known and utilized. These trusts allow for disabled individuals to receive a large sum of money or assets while preserving their eligibility for key government benefits such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If those assets were given to the beneficiary outright, they would be counted as part of that individual’s available resources and potentially disqualify them for benefits, which could be detrimental. As trustees we can administer the funds accordingly and ensure compliance with government regulations. Also, because we are a local firm, we are in frequent communication with the state Medicaid agency, and are able to meet with beneficiaries and their families in person, oftentimes at their homes.
How else can you help preserve assets if someone is concerned about who will benefit from them?
A spendthrift trust may be considered if you have a beneficiary who is not financially sophisticated, or has a history of debt or substance abuse. This trust is designed to give the trustee discretion as to how much and for what purposes the assets will be distributed. We can make payments to ensure their needs are met, as opposed to just giving them cash outright. We have the role of making the tough decisions and sometimes having to say no.
Discretionary trusts can also have built-in protections to shelter the assets from creditors or divorce proceedings. There are also trusts for minors, who often can’t legally claim the assets until they are 18 or 21. But if in a professionally managed trust, the trustee can distribute funds for important life expenses such as college tuition, a car or a down payment on a home, all the while professionally investing the assets for the child as they progress through their early years.
What final advice do you have for our readers?
A will, power of attorney and a health care directive are all vital estate planning documents. Estate planning should not be something that you get around to doing! Do not procrastinate, be sure to visit a qualified estate planning attorney if you haven’t already done so, and be sure to review your documents regularly. As executor and trustee we have seen firsthand the negative effects of poor, outdated, or an incomplete estate plan. Having a professional executor and trustee in your estate plan provides peace of mind for you today, and peace of mind for your family members tomorrow. The trust officers with Garden State Trust Company are always available to meet with you at no cost to help you formulate an estate plan so that when you meet with your estate planning attorney you will be better prepared.
Garden State Trust Company
1236 Brace Road, Suite A | Cherry Hill
(856) 281-1300 | GSTrustCo.com
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 6 (August 2020).
For more info on Suburban Family Magazine, click here.
For information about advertising in Suburban Family Magazine, click here.
To find out where to pick up your copy of Suburban Family Magazine, click here.