OCTOBER 6, 2003 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 14
[NOTE: After this article was published and circulated, the Arizona legislature delayed the effective date of the Uniform Trust Code in Arizona for two years and then repealed the UTC altogether, and then re-adopted it in a significantly modified form. Readers need to check the current status of the UTC in Arizona rather than relying on this synopsis, prepared before the legislative revisions of the Code.]
After several years of work by some of the leading trust law experts across the country, last year the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws published a proposed new law for consideration by all the states. The Uniform Trust Code (the UTC) was promptly introduced in ten states and the District of Columbia. Arizona became the fifth state to adopt the UTC earlier this year.
Many of the UTC’s provisions simply restate existing trust rules, but a few new ideas have now become law in Arizona. Among the changes facing Arizonans who either create or administer trusts:
Trust law has long required that beneficiaries be given notice of the existence of the trust and periodic accountings. What’s new about the UTC is the specificity of that requirement. Before March 1, 2004, every Arizona trustee is required to give notice of the existence of the trust to any “qualified beneficiary.” Accountings must be given to the same “qualified beneficiaries” every year. This requirement can not be written out of the trust document, so notice and accountings will be mandatory in every case.
Notices and accountings will usually have to go to anyone presently permitted to receive trust benefits, plus anyone who might receive benefits on the death of someone in the first category of beneficiaries. Among those clearly affected by the change will be surviving spouses who receive income from so-called “bypass” trusts and their successors.
Powers of Attorney
The UTC also clarifies the authority of an agent under a durable power of attorney to revoke or amend a trust. The agent will have such power only if the written power of attorney contains specific provisions and the trust itself does not prohibit an agent from acting.
A trust which prevents either a trustee or a beneficiary from conveying the beneficiary’s right to future trust distributions may be described as a “spendthrift” trust. The UTC clarifies that creditors of the beneficiary of a spendthrift trust can not reach trust assets. At the same time, the UTC codifies a number of exceptions to that rule, including claims against the trust’s settlor, claims for child support and alimony, and claims by some governmental entities.
Arizona lawmakers took out the UTC provision on the level of capacity required to establish a trust. In future years it will probably be set at “testamentary” rather than the higher “contractual” capacity level.
The new Uniform Trust Code becomes effective in Arizona on January 1, 2004. It will profoundly affect the administration of trusts in the state, and it will also provide several challenges for those who are considering creating a trust in the future.