Legal Analysis: Highlights from September 2023

In This Edition:

  • Naming the Right Fiduciary in Estate Plans
  • Get to Know Director John Courtney
  • Complimentary Estate Planning Webinar

A Note from the President:

This month’s article highlights our Trustee service offerings through our affiliate company, First NW Fiduciary, Inc (“First NW”). We started First NW in response to the quantity of requests from our clients. One advantage of First NW is that we don’t provide investment services. This means that clients get to keep the same financial advisor that you’ve had during life.

We hope you enjoy learning more about the role a professional Trustee plays in estate planning and trust administration.

As always, please feel free to reach out with any questions.

Very Sincerely,
Justin R. Martin

Naming the Right Fiduciary in Estate Plans

With an estate planning legacy dating back to 1960, Myatt & Bell, P.C. has drafted thousands of wills and trusts. Based on the age of our firm, this also means that we have sadly witnessed clients becoming incapacitated and passing away.

Throughout the decades, we are often asked about the role a fiduciary plays in estate planning and trust administration. A fiduciary is a person or an institution that has an ethical and legal responsibility to provide the best form of care and loyalty to the one who has named them as such in their estate plans.

When you create a living trust, if you are healthy and capable, generally you and/or your spouse will act as initial trustee(s). But deciding who to name as successor trustee upon your disability or death can be a difficult decision. Adult children, family members, or friends may be willing and able to take on this responsibility, but if not, you may want to consider hiring a private fiduciary.

Here are some factors to consider when deciding who to name as trustee or successor trustee:

  • Expertise & Experience
  • Time & Availability
  • Impartiality & Objectivity
  • Trustworthiness & Reliability
  • Cost

The responsibilities of a trustee will vary depending on the specific terms of the trust, but they generally involve managing and investing trust assets, distributing income or principal to beneficiaries, filing necessary tax returns, maintaining accurate records, and providing regular reports to the beneficiaries. They must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries, exercising a duty of care, loyalty, and impartiality.

To help flush out a fiduciary’s role in greater detail is First NW Fiduciary Trust Officer, Laura Watts, with four real-world scenarios:

1. My bank is named as successor trustee in my trust, but I was just informed that I don’t have enough assets in trust to qualify for the bank’s trust services. What other options do I have?

This is a common problem. Often professional trustees, like banks, will not handle trusts with assets below the $1 million or even the $2 million range. Having a family member step in is a good alternative to a bank, where a family member is fiscally responsible and is willing to manage a loved one’s estate. This may even be a child that is old enough (or will soon be) that is willing and able to handle this responsibility.

If a child or family member cannot be appointed as successor trustee due to age, financial responsibility, or phase of life, a professional trustee such as First NW Fiduciary, Inc. (First NW), is a great option. First NW has the training, expertise, and time to handle trusts of all sizes and complexity. Unlike a bank, when you or your beneficiaries have questions, you won’t speak to a machine and dial multiple extensions to get through to a live person. With First NW, you can expect nothing less than the white glove service a small office provides, and First NW comes with the knowledge and expertise of a large institution without the added hassle and high fees of a bank.

2. My husband and I have a blended family. I think my son would do a great job as trustee, but he doesn’t get along with his half-siblings. What do you suggest we do?

No matter how straight forward your estate plan is, handling a parent’s estate can cause hard feelings, resentment, and distrust, even among the closest of family members. Blended families often present even greater challenges and worry among beneficiaries. A private fiduciary, like First NW for example, offers a neutral-third party alternative.

The professional fiduciary’s job is to act objectively to carry out the trust’s instructions without getting caught in family disagreements. When and if differences and concerns arise, we have the training to mediate between family members to help avoid disputes from blowing up and potentially leading to lengthy and expensive legal actions down the road. Lastly, having a professional fiduciary helps beneficiaries feel heard and eliminates any fear of family history getting in the way of the administration process.

3. My partner passed away years ago and I don’t have any children or close family members. What are my options if I become incapacitated?

Hiring a private fiduciary like First NW offers you the peace of mind to know that someone is ready to step in when you are no longer able to manage your finances. We are obligated by law to act solely in your best interest. We will work with a team of professionals that you choose or hire well-vetted and trusted professionals to coordinate your personal care and physical safety. We will make sure your money is safe, invested prudently, and being spent how you directed in your estate plan.

4. I don’t want to burden one of my kids with handling my estate when I pass away, but I hear that hiring a private fiduciary is very expensive.

You likely hire professionals like an accountant to file your taxes, a financial advisor to invest your assets, an attorney to provide you with legal advice, or a hair stylist to do your hair. Even the most basic trust can be time-consuming and difficult to administer, and often requires the assistance of an attorney.

An untrained fiduciary may not understand the complexity involved and quickly become overwhelmed, especially if he or she already has a full-time job and/or kids to care for. Further, a fiduciary is responsible for adhering to their duties and managing estates according to relevant law whether they are aware of the requirements or not. Mistakes or neglect can lead to costly legal actions by dissatisfied beneficiaries. Unlike many professional services that charge hourly, First NW’s fees are based on a percentage of the assets in your trust. The fee schedule is published, and beneficiaries are required to be notified of any upcoming fee changes. More importantly, we have the requisite knowledge and expertise to help avoid expensive and undue errors that frequently occur with non-professional trustees. Hiring a professional fiduciary may seem expensive, but when a child cannot take on the added burden it brings peace of mind to know the process is being handled in a hassle free and professional manner.

If you would like more information, please visit or give us a call today. Laura, and team, are ready to help!

John Courtney, Director of Finance

Tell us something fun about you: I’m not fun, I’m an accountant.

Also, I met the love of my life while taking a bite out of a cheeseburger. Literally, found a note with her name/number between bun and melted cheese. Best drive thru order ever!

What are you currently reading? The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece, by Tom Hanks.

What is your all-time favorite movie or book? Elf!, Happy Gilmore, Talladega Nights, Austin Powers … are you feeling a movie theme yet? Most recent top pick would be Phantom of the Open, a must-see true story. As for favorite books, Death, Taxes and Leaky Waders; Who Moved My Cheese? and Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

What is your favorite food? Fish and Chips from Cap’n Yoby’s in Kelso, WA (hint: cheeseburger w/paper)

What do you like to do just for fun? Not complete questionnaires.

Fish, golf, hike, cycling, running, spending time with my lovely wife, going to Thorn games. (Sorry Timbers, you fall and whine way too much.)

Most memorable place you have vacationed? Cycling eight days through Ireland. Land of the Gingers!

BBQ Chicken Recipe*

Barbecued chicken isn’t, really: It’s grilled rather than smoke-roasted at low temperature. But it requires a similar attention to technique. You’ll want to move the pieces around on the grill to keep them from burning, and flip them often as well. Cooking barbecued chicken benefits from a basting technique used by the chef and outdoor cooking maven Adam Perry Lang, who thins out his sauce with water, then paints it onto the meat he’s cooking coat after coat, allowing it to reduce and intensify rather than seize up and burn.

Yields 6 to 8 servings

  • 1 cup barbecue sauce (see suggested recipe)
  • 6 to 8 chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs) skin-on, bone-in, about 3½ to 4 pounds
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Step 1: Build a fire in your grill, leaving one side free of coals. When coals are covered with gray ash and the temperature is medium (you can hold your hand 5 inches above the coals for 5 to 7 seconds), you are ready to cook. (For a gas grill, turn one of the burners down to low or off, lower cover and heat for 15 minutes.)

Step 2: Meanwhile, combine barbecue sauce with 1 cup water and stir to combine. Set aside.

Step 3: Sprinkle the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper, then put them on the grill directly over the coals and cook for about 15 minutes, turning once every 5 minutes or so, and brushing with the thinned barbecue sauce. When the chicken skin starts to crisp and darken, move the pieces to the cooler side of the grill and let them cook for 15 to 20 minutes more, or until a peek inside shows that the meat no longer has any red at the center.

Step 4: Move the chicken back onto the hot side of the grill and baste with sauce again, turning the meat a few times. Remove to a warmed platter and serve.

*Source: New York Times Cooking

Estate Planning & Peace of Mind

Have you found yourself making excuses for why not to get your estate in order? Maybe you’re convinced that you really don’t need estate planning. If you have assets and loved ones, you need an estate plan. Having an estate plan that is right for you ensures your loved ones are taken care of and that the transition is as easy as possible.

Attend one of our complimentary estate planning webinars and see for yourself. Having your estate plan prepared and understanding the why’s behind the importance of estate planning can bring you the peace of mind you have been needing. Join us at our next Estate Planning Informational Webinar by clicking here.

From Our Clients

“Very professional, detail(s)-oriented, client first attitude, easy to do business with and throughout the process.” – Frederick V.

“We have such a great experience with Myatt & Bell, P.C. They walked us through the entire estate planning process in a clear and precise manner that helped us understand every step. Our questions were answered with patience and clarity and in the end everything went quite smoothly. We are grateful to have this taken care of and to know that our family will be taken care of. I highly recommend Myatt & Bell, P.C. for your estate planning needs.” – Amy P.

Families choose Myatt & Bell to design their estate plans with honest optimism and meticulous attention to detail.

Do you have feedback for us?

Please continue giving us feedback about your experience with M&B. We want to make sure our clients are happy.

And, if you run into someone who needs help with a will or trust, please tell them about Myatt & Bell. Thank you!

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