3 Keys to Trust Accounting and Reporting

Managing the accounting of trusts can be complex. There are a variety of ways in which trusts can be established, and the rules and regulations of trust accounting vary by state. To simplify, trust accounting is essentially the tracking and bookkeeping of cash in various accounts. Anneke Stender, the EVP of Plumb Bill Pay and Family Office Accounting, likens it to one big bank reconciliation.

  1. Background on the Basics of Trust Accounts

An account in trust (or trust account) refers to any type of financial account that is opened by an individual and managed by a designated trustee for the benefit of a third party per agreed-upon terms.

Trust assets are generally either “principal” or “income” where the principal is the assets owned by the trust, and the income is what is earned by those assets. Assets in a trust can be anything from cash, stocks, bonds, privately held companies to real estate holdings.

  1. Trust Accounting Main Concerns

It is imperative that the allocation of income versus principal is both accurate and accurately reported to maintain the integrity of the trust. The beneficiaries of the trust need to know what funds were allocated and to whom. This helps to ensure that the beneficiaries receive their fair share of the allocation, and it also reduces the risk of disputes.

To further eliminate the likelihood of arguments or disagreements over trust allocations, many trust reports will be filed by an attorney with the court.

One other challenge of Trust Accounts is that not all of them are protected from creditors. Typically, an irrevocable trust protects assets from creditors whereas a revocable living trust does not. However, the protection of an irrevocable trust varies depending on the state. It is highly recommended that you reach out to an attorney who is experienced in this field with specific questions about protections.

  1. Benefits of Trust Accounts

There are tremendous benefits to setting up Trust Accounts, and these tend to outweigh any of the downside. Among these benefits are:

  • Asset protection
  • Better control of those assets
  • An equitable division of assets among family members/beneficiaries

Another notable benefit of trust accounts is the avoidance of probate. When assets are held in trust, beneficiaries typically bypass the probate process in the event of the account holder’s death. Additionally, trusts provide a means to reduce or even eliminate substantial estate taxes. By transferring assets into trusts, individuals can effectively decrease their overall taxable estate.

Maintaining a trust is relatively straightforward for both beneficiaries and other involved parties, especially with a knowledgeable team that understands state regulations and the trust’s objectives.

As expert accountants for high-net-worth individuals and families, Plumb has decades of experience preparing the accounting for trusts. This includes:

  • Managing the books on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.
  • Working with the trustee in processing payments to vendors and beneficiaries.
  • Allocating income and principal funds.
  • Providing necessary reports for the attorneys, CPAs, trust beneficiaries or the court.
  • Preparation of annual court accountings

There is specialized accounting that is required for trusts, and the rules and regulations vary by state, so it is important to understand the specific requirements of your state.

For those unfamiliar with the specific accounting requirements of trusts, consulting with expert accountants and attorneys who specialize in this area is strongly advised. They can help manage the books, make accurate allocations, and provide the necessary reporting – essentially making the complex straightforward. Whether you are a beneficiary, a trustee, or someone considering setting up a trust, arming yourself with knowledge and a proficient team can help you optimize the advantages that trusts offer.

Why – and How – to Track Monthly Spending for High-Net-Worth Individuals

There are many benefits to tracking monthly spending, regardless of your tax bracket. However, staying on top of monthly spending for high-net-worth individuals is especially important because they often have complex financial portfolios and spending patterns — which can lead to difficulties in understanding cash outflow, and where money is really going each month. Without clarity into how their money is being spent, it is more difficult to manage and preserve their wealth.

And that’s just one example of the benefits of tracking monthly spending.

Tracking expenditures for high-net-worth individuals has five main advantages:

  1. Leads to more mindful spending.

Access to monthly spending data provides a clear picture of spending habits, including both regular and irregular expenses. This information helps to identify areas where expenses can be reduced or streamlined, ultimately leading to better financial management.

  1. Identifies problem areas and where there might be overspending.

Tracking monthly spending provides a comprehensive view of one’s finances, making it

easier to create an accurate budget. This can help high-net-worth individuals allocate their funds effectively and avoid overspending in one area while underfunding in another.

  1. Assists with better planning for major expenses.

Or, put another way – helps to create a better, more accurate budget for future spending. High-net- worth individuals often have significant expenses like buying a vacation home, a yacht, artwork, or other high-value items. Tracking monthly spending can provide the information needed to plan for these major expenses, helping to ensure that there are enough funds available when the time comes.

  1. Provides increased awareness of investment opportunities.

By tracking monthly spending, high-net-worth individuals can identify areas where they have excess funds. This excess can then be invested in various opportunities that can lead to financial growth and stability.

  1. Improves cash flow management.

By keeping track of monthly spending, high-net-worth individuals can ensure that their cash flow remains positive. This helps them to avoid being caught in financial difficulties and maintain their wealth.

There are clear benefits to tracking monthly spending. But what is the best way to do so?

There are a few different ways that people can track their monthly spending, but for high-net-worth individuals we recommend outsourcing this task to experts (like us).

Why? That’s easy – it’s because we are solely focused on providing outsourced bill pay and accounting services to high-net-worth individuals and families. We’ve been dedicated to supporting these clients for decades, and we have a depth and breadth of knowledge that makes us true experts.

Outsourced bill pay service providers like Plumb offer monthly reconciliations to keep track of all transactions. Additionally, we provide easily accessible reporting to highlight the current state and future projections of cash outflow.

Plumb has also developed a proprietary bill pay app specifically designed for our clients and their financial advisors. This app streamlines the entire bill pay process and makes approving bills, viewing bill payment status, and communicating with the Plumb team easier than ever. It provides the clarity we know these clients need as well as access from anywhere, at any time we know they want.

At Plumb, we have a proven process in place for assisting our high-net-worth clients track their monthly spending:

Goal Tracking

  • We provide quantifiable information to help them meet the goals they’ve established.

Software Tool Assessment

  • We also make recommendations about the best software for them to utilize. For example, clients with multiple entities are best served by a software suite like Sage Intacct, whereas clients with more straightforward finances can use a platform like QuickBooks Online. Both are excellent tools, both can help to streamline reporting and create efficiencies, but it ultimately comes down to the clients’ specific needs.

Customized Reporting

  • When it comes to reporting, Plumb offers fully customizable reports. We provide P&L’s, expense tracking reports, cash flow statements, income statements, balance sheets, and more robust investment tracking reports offered by our Family Office Accounting team.

Supportive Services

  • We work in partnership with the wealth advisors of our clients, as well as directly with the client – whatever they prefer. Our goal is to make sure we are providing our clients with everything they want and need in their expense tracking.

Tracking monthly spending is a crucial aspect of personal finance, especially for high-net-worth individuals. With a considerable amount of wealth, monitoring how money is being spent is essential to making sure that they are on the right path towards realizing their goals and long-term wealth preservation. Outsourced bill pay and accounting service providers like Plumb are here to help ensure they have clarity into their daily finances so they can go out and enjoy what matters most to them.