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What is a family trust fund and how does it work? What does it mean for me and my 2 kids as my marriage is ending.

Usk, WA |

Mother-in-law left money in family trust. Not seen the will. I have been married 20 years. I want to either divorce or separate due to unreasonable behaviour. Kids are 19 & 11. Youngest is with me and older is living abroad. I intend to file for divorce or separation due to unreasonable behaviour (2 years ago I was very ill and he left with my children, I got my son back through a court residence order). My husband has now back into the house (it's in his name) and refuses to move out (he is in the spare room). I want to know the details of the will and how it works. How do I find out? Will separation serve me better than divorce? We get along, but I do not want to live with a man who abandoned me when I was given only a year to live. He thinks of money as a control factor. I want out.

Attorney Answers 4


"Family Trust" is a generic term I find that just means the decedent's funds go into a Trust managed by a trustee for the benefit of its beneficiaries who are usually family members. Almost all clients that I deal with limit the beneficiaries to biological or adopted decedents. Daughter in laws are usually not included.

The inherited interest in a Trust is a considered a separate asset. Divorce court typically treat separate assets as separate and do not distribute them to the other spouse. However, I have seen them do it (rare). More commonly, the court may consider it in dividing the other assets to the non beneficiary spouse based on the concept of equity (fairness). You really have to consult with a family law attorney to get a good idea about resolving that question.

If the trust was in a Will, then it should be part of the public record. If it was in a Revocable Living Trust, then a new statute effective January1, 2012 may give you tools to view the Revocable Trust or at least your children depending on when it became irrevocable.

Your question really has more family law overtone than estate planning/trusts one to it. A family law attorney is definitely where you need to go next in my mind. Your health issues and your spouses leaving you alone sound like huge issues. For your kids sake, you may need some good help there and I am not sure how helpful my industry is for that. That would be counseling and I would definitely suggest that to a client for the sake of the children and to hopefully help you have some peace of mind. Lets face it, that is a huge issue for the whole family and you deserve that respect and support. We all do.

Hope that helps.

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You will need to get a copy of the trust and any other financial documents. Having these before sitting down with an attorney to discuss your options would be recommended. Without reading the terms of the trustbitbwould be difficult to offer you advice.

The above answer does not constitute an attorney client relationship and/ or retention of counsel. This answer is based upon the facts presented and may change if additional information is provided. The rules of the Bar for New York State may require me to advise that this could be construed as attorney advertisement.

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Your question is really a family law/divorce question, not an estate planning question. Your best bet would be to contact a family law attorney before you proceed.

If this trust was created in her will, you should be able to get a copy of the trust from the court which probated her estate. However, this might also have been a living trust, in which case the probate court would not have it. It could be difficult to get a copy in this instance.

It is rather unlikely, in my opinion, that a "family trust" would provide anything for you, once divorced (or for that matter, before you are divorced). Any benefits would probably accrue to your husband and your children.

Good luck.

There is no attorney client relationship between the persons who asked and answered this question. You should always consult an attorney for specific legal advice.

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If your mother-in-law left money in a family trust, then the provisions of the trust are very important. It is possible that the trust is confidential, and the will is confidential, in which case you may not have authorization to view it.

In any case, what is "typical" in these situations (which could deviate from your own situation), is that the trust will allow payouts to family members as described in the trust, and are designed to prevent spouses who divorce from accessing or claiming the funds, and prevents commingling of separate property and community property

Since WA is a community property state, any assets obtained through an inheritance are deemed separate property (in which a spouse would not have an interest upon divorce) unless the assets (like money) were mingled in with community assets..

Whether you should divorce or not is really up to you. I would need more info to assess the financial outcome.

Matthew Johnson phone# 206.747.0313 is licensed in the State of Washington and performs bankruptcy, short sale negotiations, and estate planning in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King and Pierce counties. The response does not constitute specific legal advice, which would require a full inquiry by the attorney into the complete background of the facts and circumstances surrounding this matter; rather, it is intended to be general legal information based on the limited information provided by the inquirer; it This response also does not constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship, which can only be established after a conflict of interest evaluation is completed, your case is accepted, and a fee agreement is signed. Johnson Legal Group, PLLC

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