Trustees Encounter New Challenges During COVID-19

Roughly $760 billion is currently held in trusts throughout the nation, so trustees are responsible for handling vast sums of money. The COVID-19 crisis has the potential to interrupt trustees while they are trying to execute their duties. Understanding all the challenges caused by the pandemic will help trustees fulfill their roles in a capable manner.

Economic Turmoil May Affect Trust Assets

Many trusts involve investment portfolios and other fluctuating assets. All the economic uncertainty can make things tricky for a trustee during the pandemic, especially if they are managing a trust that holds other corporate structures. Some may struggle with how to best manage assets when the stock market is moving wildly and the real estate market has ground to a halt. If assets are mismanaged, trustees may need to prepare for high levels of scrutiny. They should carefully examine the trust deed to see whether they are still required to intervene during times of stress.

Communicating With Beneficiaries and Co-Trustees Is More Difficult

The COVID-19 is crisis making it much more difficult to communicate with others. Something that would have just required a quick meeting before may now involve several lengthy emails sent back and forth. To overcome this challenge, trustees need to be willing to try new technologies. Using e-signatures and video calls can help speed up communication. Unfortunately, communication can be almost impossible if another involved party becomes ill. This can leave trustees in awkward situations where they need to speak to someone, but that person is completely incapacitated. In these cases, trustees may need to consult with an estate planning lawyer to see how they can best fulfill their duties.

Trustees May Encounter Unexpected Circumstances

Trustees have the important responsibility of making sure that all the terms of a trust are carried out according to the requests of the grantor. However, almost no one expected or planned for how the virus has changed everyday life. For example, a trust might provide living expenses for a student in college, but the student’s college might be closed during the pandemic. In this case, a COVID-19 trustee would be left wondering how to best fulfill the intent of the trust. Trustees will need to be fully informed on the full extent of their responsibilities and powers to make these decisions.

Interacting With the Court Is More Challenging

Most trust management runs relatively smoothly, but if there are problems, trustees can end up having to go to court. If you are in a situation where you need a court to decide a disagreement, you will find that getting a ruling is much harder now. Due to the pandemic, normal legal operations have ground to a halt. Many courts are only hearing emergency cases, and there is a huge backlog of cases courts still need to get through. It is wise to go ahead and start planning court cases as soon as possible since it may take some time to actually finalize things.

Some Trustees May Be Incapacitated

Because they have such an essential duty, trustees need to plan ahead for the possibility of becoming incapacitated. COVID-19 estate planning can address all sorts of possibilities, from being slightly ill to ending up in a coma for weeks. Therefore, if the trust allows it, trustees should go ahead and appoint someone to take over if they get sick. Key people in trusts should update their wills and existing trust structures to prepare for potential problems.

If you are a trustee or a person creating a trust, it is a good idea to go ahead and seek counsel with an estate planning lawyer. An attorney can provide you with more guidelines for how to navigate all the challenges of being a trustee during the coronavirus crisis. The Knee Law Firm in Hackensack would be happy to provide assistance. We help New Jersey residents with all sorts of estate planning duties, including drafting wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents. Call 201-996-1200 or fill out our online contact form to learn more about our services.