Estate Planning 101

Understanding Trustee Fees in Nebraska

Understanding Trustee fees is a critical factor in setting up and operating a Trust in Nebraska. In this article, we'll look at the typical fee ranges for different types of trusts, when trustees are paid, and whether trustee fees are considered taxable.
October 6, 2023

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When it comes to estate planning, one of the significant factors to consider is the trustee fees. This is particularly true in Nebraska, where the structure of trustee fees can greatly influence the dynamics of a trust. Whether you're a corporate trustee, professional trustee, or an individual trustee, understanding the financial implications of these roles is crucial. Trustee fees in Nebraska can vary depending on the type and complexity of the trust, the responsibilities involved, and the agreement between the grantor and the trustee. This blog delves into the ins and outs of trustee fees in Nebraska, guiding you to navigate this critical aspect of estate planning effectively.

Professional and Non-Professional Trustees: An Overview

Trustees in Nebraska primarily fall into two categories: Professional and Non-Professional trustees. The differences between these types play a significant role in determining the trustee fees.

Professional trustees are typically corporate entities or individuals with a specialized background in law, finance, or estate planning. Their professional expertise ensures that the trust is managed efficiently and in accordance with legal requirements. Professional trustees often charge a fee based on a percentage of the trust's assets or a flat fee for their services. The specific amount can vary based on the complexity of the trust and the level of responsibility involved.

On the other hand, non-professional trustees are often family members or close friends chosen by the grantor. While they may not possess the same level of expertise as professional trustees, they are usually selected due to their close relationship with the grantor and the beneficiaries. Non-professional trustees are typically compensated for their time and effort, but the fee structure is more flexible. They may receive an hourly wage, a flat fee, or even a small percentage of the trust's assets, depending on the agreement with the grantor.

How are Trustees Paid?

Trustee fees in Nebraska can take various forms, depending on the type of trustee, the complexity of the trust, and the specific agreement made during the creation of the trust.

Professional trustees often charge a flat fee or a percentage of the trust's assets. Flat fees offer predictability but may be higher than an hourly rate if the trust is relatively straightforward. On the other hand, a percentage-based fee is more common with larger, more complex trusts. The percentage typically ranges from 0.5% to 2% of the trust's assets per year. This fee structure aligns the trustee's compensation with the performance of the trust, rewarding careful management.

Non-professional trustees, such as family members, typically have a more flexible fee structure. They could be paid an hourly rate for their time, a flat fee for their service, or a small percentage of the trust's assets. The specific arrangement is usually decided upon by the grantor during the creation of the trust.

The type of trust also plays a role in trustee compensation. For example, a simple family trust may require less time and expertise to manage, therefore incurring lower fees. In contrast, a complex trust with various assets and tax implications may demand higher fees due to the increased responsibility and skills required.

Trustee Fees in Nebraska

In Nebraska, trustee fees are not dictated by statutory guidelines but are typically determined based on a "reasonable fee" standard. This standard is subjective and relies on various factors such as the complexity of the trust, the level of responsibility, the expertise required, and the time commitment involved.

Professional trustees typically charge a flat fee or a percentage of the trust assets, typically ranging from 0.5% to 2% annually. However, the actual rates can vary depending on the specifics of the trust and the trustee's specific responsibilities.

Non-professional trustees, particularly if they are family members or close friends, may choose not to take a fee. If they do, it could be an hourly rate, which might range from $25 to $100 per hour, a flat fee, or a small percentage of the trust's assets.

All trustee fees are subject to the approval of the probate court. The court will review the fees to ensure they are reasonable and commensurate with the tasks performed by the trustee.

Trustee Fees by Type of Trust

The structure of trustee fees can also vary depending on the type of trust. Here, we'll delve into some common types of trusts and how trustee fees might differ among them.

  • Revocable Living Trusts: These trusts are quite common and typically less complex, as they primarily serve to avoid probate. For these trusts, a family member (non-professional trustee) may serve without compensation, but if a professional trustee is hired, the fee might range from a flat yearly fee of $2,000 to $5,000 or a modest percentage of the trust's assets.
  • Irrevocable Trusts: These trusts are typically more complex and may involve more time and expertise to manage, especially if they hold business interests or are designed for tax planning. The trustee fees for irrevocable trusts are typically a percentage of the trust assets, often between 0.5% and 2% annually, though the exact amount can vary depending on the specific intricacies of the trust.
  • Charitable Trusts: These trusts are established to benefit a charitable organization and may involve some unique responsibilities for the trustee. As such, the fees could be higher, typically a percentage of the trust assets, similar to irrevocable trusts.
  • Special Needs Trusts: These trusts are set up for a beneficiary who is physically or mentally disabled. Due to the specialized knowledge needed to manage these trusts and comply with government benefit rules, trustee fees can be higher and are usually a percentage of the trust's assets.

When are Trustees Paid?

The timing of trustee payment generally depends on the terms set out in the trust agreement. Typically, trustee fees are paid out of the trust's assets.

Professional trustees charging a percentage of the trust's assets usually receive their fees annually, often divided and disbursed quarterly. For those charging a flat fee, payment terms are likely specified in the agreement, but these fees are usually paid annually as well.

Non-professional trustees who charge an hourly rate might invoice the trust for their time monthly, quarterly, or annually, depending on the time commitment and tasks performed.

When the trustee is handling the final distribution of assets and the closing of the trust, they may receive their final payment at the end of the process, once all other expenses and taxes have been paid.

Are Trustee Fees Taxable?

Yes, trustee fees are considered taxable income by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This applies to both professional and non-professional trustees. Trustees are required to report the fees they receive as income on their personal tax returns. For professional trustees, these fees are typically reported as business income.

For non-professional trustees, if the trustee fee is the only income from self-employment, it might not be subject to self-employment tax. However, it should still be reported as income on their tax returns.

Payment of trustee fees can reduce the taxable income of the trust itself, as they are typically considered an administrative expense.

Given the complexity of tax laws, it's always a good idea to consult with a tax professional or an estate planning attorney to ensure accurate reporting and compliance with all relevant tax regulations.