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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.

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